The Normal Heart

“Breaking the pattern a little bit because even though this was a TV movie, it was an important one that I’d looked forward to for months.

A couple of years ago, there was a play on Broadway called The Normal Heart. I didn’t know much about it other than it was Jim Parsons’ Broadway debut and I wanted to stage door stalk him. I was so unprepared for how devastating and moving that play was. It told the story of Ned Weeks, a fictionalized version of playwright Larry Kramer, and his struggle for activism during the beginning of the AIDS crisis in the 80s. His community is dying all around him, and not only do people not know why, people don’t seem to care. John Benjamin Hickey and Ellen Barkin won incredibly deserved Tonys along with Joe Mantello’s nomination and a win for Best Revival of a play. I was speechless yet unable to stop talking about it. I’d seen Angels in America, and as much of an impact as that play had on me, it was nothing compared to this.

Ryan Murphy developed this for screen, and I just could not wait. The casting was incredible. Mark Ruffalo taking over as Ned Weeks. Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Jonathan Groff. Mantello was back in a smaller role and Parsons’ part was beefed up. I was concerned that it would fall into the usual translation problem of too much talk and not enough action, but I felt it did play well. The big speeches were still emotional and effective. I was bracing myself for one scene I was waiting for and was taken by surprise by others. On stage, Lee Pace’s Bruce Niles had a heartbreaking account of his boyfriend dying during travel and having to deal with the body. I couldn’t breathe after. The film showed it as a flashback, right after Joe Mantello’s Mickey gave what was prolly the most frustrated and emotional speech. Barkin pretty much won her Tony with one scene ranting against a faceless medical board, and Roberts intensity matched that when we could actually see the setting.

Most of the criticism that I heard about the film is that the story now seems dated, but I disagree. We may not be in that particular crisis anymore, but we don’t want to forget what happened. The characters are what drive this story, and we may find new relevancy in today’s issues. These are still important conversations to have and we can’t be allowed to forget where we came from”

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