The journey to get Larry Kramer’s masterpiece The Normal Heart from stage to screen has been a decades-long battle, and finally it appears as a painfully honest and emotional film. When I heard Ryan Murphy would be directing this, I instantly thought “Oh yay, more overacting and hammy performances”, but I will admit that this film proves that when Murphy wants to, he can be an incredible director.
I need to point out that Murphy assembled quite a cast here, and not one that got me particularly excited. He used his film gravitas to bring film star power in the form of Julia Roberts and Mark Ruffalo, which was interesting because this film was unexplored territory for both actors. Ruffalo caught my attention here because I don’t like him as an actor, and I often find him smug and hammy. However, here he actually was pretty likable and convincing as Ned Weeks. Roberts was also superb as Emma Brookner, a paralyzed physician doing all she can to save these dying men. However, the performance that defines the film for me is Jim Parsons, who proves that he is more than Sheldon Cooper, and while it is initially funny to hear Parsons spout out cuss words, he eventually becomes an endearing and touching figure, and hopefully Parsons can explore such roles again.
Cinema seems to have a love for HIV/AIDS, and it is a tragic but fascinating subject – one mistake can be construed as a death sentence, and how you and those around you react to it. It makes compelling and tearjerking cinema, and addresses one of the most scary issues of our time. But some may lump all these films together unfairly, and while many of them use the same methods, all of them are unique in their own way. The Normal Heart is simply an ensemble drama about different characters trying to fight against this disease – while Dallas Buyers Club and Philadelphia dealt more with government and its relationship with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, The Normal Heart is much more – it is about love above all, and acceptance. It is about fighting for survival and not accepting defeat. It is an uplifting story in an incredibly depressing book.
Larry Kramer did a great job adapting his play, and Ryan Murphy surprised me with his directorial efforts. Overall, The Normal Heart will make you cry without a doubt, but most importantly, it will make you think.