Review Roundup Part II - HBO's THE NORMAL HEART
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November 13, 2015
HBO will debut The Normal Heart this SUNDAY, MAY 25 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT) on HBO. The drama stars Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons Julia Roberts, Alfred Molina, Joe Mantello, Jonathan Groff, Denis O'Hare,Stephen Spinella, Corey Stoll, Finn Wittrock, and BD Wong.
Directed by Ryan Murphy and written by Larry Kramer, adapting his groundbreaking Tony Award-winning play of the same name, THE NORMAL HEART, tells the story of the onset of the HIV-AIDS Crisis in New York City in the early 1980s, taking an unflinching look at the nation's sexual politics as gay activists and their allies in the medical community fight to expose the truth about the burgeoning epidemic to a city and nation in denial.
Additional reviews for the highly anticipated film have come in - let's see what the critics have to say:
Kevin Jagernauth, Indiewire: Unsurprisingly, Ruffalo is in fine form and manages a handful of moving scenes, even if the movie around him is often racing from one death or media incident to another...Roberts also makes the most of her tough love doctor, while Bomer gets to show some range, and Kitsch, despite his blockbuster flops, proves he's still got some talent waiting to be given the right vehicle.
Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times: The film version of the play that's being shown Sunday on HBO allows us to view "The Normal Heart" instead as a sort of documentary of recent history, a cousin, oddly, of the just opened National September 11 Memorial Museum. It invites us to pause and reflect: "Here is a version of something incredibly traumatic and transformative that we collectively went through. This take on it may be imperfect, but it's a subject worth contemplating, because we were all changed by it, in ways that we probably don't yet fully realize."
Verne Gay, Newsday: As superb as Ruffalo is, there are others who intermitently exceed him ... Joe Mantello, as Gay Men's Health Crisis staffer Mickey Marcus, who rages against Weeks and his own confusion. Or Parson's Boatwright, who collected and saved the Rolodex cards of the dead. Or Bomer's Turner, who is slowly consumed by the disease killing so many thousands of others. Or Roberts, as the wheelchair-bound Cassandra whose fury may actually exceed Weeks'. The cast succeeds, and in the end, so does "Heart."
Brandon Nowalk, A.V. Club: In the sense that the script is an apologia for activist stridency and noise, it fits Ryan Murphy's work like a key. The writer and executive producer's high school dramedy, Glee, proudly waves its issue-of-the-week afterschool-special banner, especially when it comes to queer causes, and the series is never shy about asserting itself... And as one of the loudest voices behind gay issues on-screen in Hollywood, Murphy's a natural for The Normal Heart.
Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter: director Ryan Murphy makes it very clear from the onset - the movie is a way to not forget. The movie is a way to take something revered in theater circles and give it wide release with a cache of bright stars. It's a movie that will get seen and the message about the horrible history of the beginning of the AIDS epidemic won't be forgotten.
David Hinckley, NY Daily News: Matt Bomer shines as Felix Turner, a reporter who gets involved with Weeks. Taylor Kitsch plays a more cautious activist; Julia Roberts matches Ned's rage as Dr. Emma Brookner, a doctor banging her head against walls, and Alfred Molina has a splendid turn as Weeks' conflicted straight brother Ben. This reincarnation of "The Normal Heart" raises all the right disturbing questions.
Brian Lowry, Variety: In its totality, this represents a powerful piece of work, with Ruffalo overcoming the prickly aspects of his character to convey his pain, and Jim Parsons delivering a wonderful supporting turn, including a sobering scene in which he talks about eulogizing fallen friends.
David Wiegand, SFGate: Watching Ryan Murphy's HBO adaptation of "The Normal Heart" isn't always easy, but there are reasons you should watch - millions of them, in fact... The Normal Heart" seethes with rage, truth and love in every single performance by an A-list cast. You should watch because Larry Kramer's play is so much more than an agitprop relic from the early years of AIDS - it is a great play that has become an even greater television film.
David Zurawik, The Baltimore Sun: The power of this HBO movie starring Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts and Jim Parsons is such that you can forget about turning off the TV after the final credits roll and going to bed as you might with most made-for-TV movies. This one, adapted by Larry Kramer from his Tony Award-winning 1985 play, will keep you up for hours in an emotional churn thinking about life, love, loss, death and politics.
Chuck Barney, San Jose Mercury News: Although Murphy broke ground with his depictions of gay relations on television, he's known more for heightened, over-the-top fare than sobering drama. But here he has tamped down all his baroque tendencies in favor of a sure-handed, straightforward approach. What he delivers is a film with piercing emotional honesty that feels rough and real, intimate and truly full of heart.
Carla Meyer, Sacremento Bee: "Heart" is a quality production throughout. Mark Ruffalo gives a complex performance as Kramer's alter ego, Ned Weeks, leading a fine cast whose biggest name is Julia Roberts.Though Roberts plays only a few notes as a physician/researcher, she plays them well.