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The Normal Heart review: the outbreak of AIDS in NYC as the Broadway play comes back in HBO’s more than brilliant film adaptation

“Is it true of the normal heart;/for the error bred in the bone/ Of each woman and each man/ Craves what it cannot have,/ not universal love/ But to be loved alone.” – from W.H. Auden’s“September 1, 1939″

In the latest HBO TV movie venture of love, pride, advocacy, coming out—just being: letting the heart decide—among the sick reality of the sudden plague-like virus we now know as AIDS that first spread across all major cities starting back in 1981, most being diagnosed among gay men, there is former film writer turned journalist Ned Weeks’ (Mark Ruffalo). A bit of a recluse in the gay community immersed in the sex-crazed lifestyle of the happy-go-lucky good spirited group that isn’t afraid to show some lovin’ (especially while partying on the weekends in Fire Island), Weeks is looking for more than just a one night stand. “Having so much sex makes love impossible,” he writes.

When the disease starts to take a rising toll in their community, first shown in a shocking case of their friend Craig played by Jonathan Groff, Weeks is even more weary of the growing phenomenon and insistence upon its awareness being raised to the public. So begins the activist group lead by Weeks joined later by his friends Bruce (Taylor Kitsch) and Tommy (Jim Parsons).


To get the government’s attention to surface this to the public and fund research, Weeks seeks out a New York Times journalist to publish a piece to help stop this evil. Of course, he ends up falling for the young heartthrob Nick (Frank De Julio) and the two start a romantic relationship together in the awakening of it all. Not being able to help Weeks as far as the publishing world is concerned, Weeks continues his fight alongside Nick who tragically finds out he too is a victim.

But gay politics is gay politics, and initially getting everyone together to come out publicly was more of a challenge than first thought. Haunted by society’s incessant discrimination, back then it wasn’t exactly easy. Finding strength and hope through joining forces with other AIDS activists such as Dr. Emma Brookner played by Julia Roberts, a doctor and researcher who took care of some of the first appearing patients, the group went on to raise money on their own, despite the inevitable problems within (let’s just say Weeks’ character can come off a little strong).

And can you imagine being ignored? Can you imagine being so sick, unable to physically make love to your partner? Can you imagine being caught in the unknown of the first outbreak of a deadly virus?

The Normal Heart is a historical and well-acted movie, and it might just be the most important of the entire year. Adapted from the Tony award-winning play written by Larry Kramer, this HBO revival knocks it out of the park; within the first 15 minutes you will be moved by the emotion put into this: the music, the feeling, and again, each performance that is equally as heartfelt. It shows the horribly unfathomable experience of having to watch so many suddenly die in an inexplicable way, their bodies literally disposed in the trash due to medical legalities; lives were torn apart, and the fact it took so long for the government to recognize AIDS (Ronald Reagan did not mention the disease until 1985) is a phenomenon in itself.

In case my review wasn’t enough to get you to watch, even the President himself was so moved by the film he called up the director Ryan Murphy to tell him how much he loved it. So borrow someone’s HBO GO password for the day and get on it because this movie is a necessity.

(sources: zap2it; The New Yorker)


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Kaitlin Duffy is a writer from Cleveland. When she's not blogging or pondering the great complexities of the world and outer space, she is finding rare vinyl steals, visiting new places, laughing often, Instagramming everything in sight, watching movies, or working on her first feature Port de Cleve.