Saturday, May 24, 2014

HBO: The Normal Heart

Thursday night I was a friend's plus-one at a preview of HBO's TV movie version of The Normal Heart, presented at the Castro Theatre. The event was scheduled to start at 7p, but my friend was eager to get in line by 6p, & we joined another friend who had been in line since 5:40p. We were all there to be shills for HBO & create advance buzz for the film, which will be broadcast Sunday evening. The screening was introduced by Frances Wallace, Frameline's Acting Executive Director, & then Tara Grace, Vice President of HBO Films, & Dante Di Loreto, the film's producer, who both got emotional when they told the audience how much the film meant to them personally.

I've never seen the original Larry Kramer play, which is now 30 years old & depicts the early days of the AIDS crisis & the internal battles of the newly-formed Gay Men's Health Crisis. Every situation is a confrontation for Ned, the play's protagonist & Mr. Kramer's stand-in. Many scenes end with him shouting, & the character is exhausting.

The production is luxurious. The ensemble cast boasts many well-known faces who all communicate a fierce sense of commitment. Jim Parsons gives a strikingly precise physical performance as an early activist. The film does not avoid graphic depictions of full-blown AIDS, & we see the progression of the disease on actor Matt Bomer's body in horrendous detail. The Castro audience was of the same generation as the movie's characters, & people sobbed openly during the screening.

§ The Normal Heart
Director: Ryan Murphy
USA, 2014, 133 mins.

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