The Normal Heart (film)

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The Normal Heart
The Normal Heart Poster.jpeg
Television release poster
Based on The Normal Heart
by Larry Kramer
Screenplay by Larry Kramer
Directed by Ryan Murphy
Starring
Music by Cliff Martinez
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Production
Producer(s) Scott Ferguson
Cinematography Danny Moder
Editor(s) Adam Penn
Running time 132 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor HBO
Release
Original release
  • May 25, 2014 (2014-05-25)
External links
Website www.hbo.com/movies/the-normal-heart

The Normal Heart is a 2014 American drama film directed by Ryan Murphy and written by Larry Kramer, based on his 1985 play of same name. The film stars Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons, Alfred Molina, Joe Mantello, Jonathan Groff, and Julia Roberts.

It was released on DVD and Blu-ray on August 26, 2014.[1]

The film depicts the rise of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984, as seen through the eyes of writer/activist Ned Weeks (Ruffalo), the founder of a prominent HIV advocacy group. Weeks prefers public confrontations to the calmer, more private strategies favored by his associates, friends, and closeted lover Felix Turner (Bomer), their differences of opinion lead to arguments that threaten to undermine their shared goals.

Plot[edit]

It is summer of 1981. Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo) is an openly gay writer from New York City who travels to Fire Island Pines on Long Island to celebrate the birthday of his friend Craig Donner (Jonathan Groff) at a house on the beach. Other friends in attendance include Mickey Marcus (Joe Mantello) and the charismatic Bruce Niles (Taylor Kitsch), who has recently begun dating Craig. Craig is young and appears to be in good health. While walking on the beach, however, Craig feels dizzy and collapses. Later, when blowing out the candles on his birthday cake, Craig begins to cough repeatedly.

While traveling back to New York City, Ned reads an article in The New York Times titled "Rare Cancer Diagnosed in 41 Homosexuals." Back in the city, he visits the offices of Dr. Emma Brookner (Julia Roberts), a physician who has seen many patients unexpectedly afflicted with the symptoms of rare diseases that normally wouldn't harm people unless their immune systems have been compromised. All of these cases seem to be appearing in gay men; in the waiting room, Ned meets Sanford (Stephen Spinella), a patient whose face and hands are marked with skin lesions caused by Kaposi's sarcoma, a rare cancer. Brookner examines Ned, but finds that he does not have the symptoms of this disease, she asks Ned to help her raise awareness of this disease within the gay community.

Craig suddenly suffers violent convulsions and is rushed to the hospital with Ned, Mickey, and Bruce where he is later pronounced dead. Brookner recognizes Bruce, noting that he is the former boyfriend of another one of her patients who recently died. Ned organizes a gathering at his home where many local gay men are invited to hear Brookner share information about the disease. Though she lacks conclusive evidence, she states her belief that the illness is sexually transmissible and that they should all avoid having sex for the time being to prevent new transmissions. Most attendees question her belief, she notes that few medical journals appear interested in publishing anything on this disease which is mostly affecting homosexual men. Ned announces that he wants to start an organization to spread information about the disease and provide services to those who have been infected.

Brookner and Ned visit a local hospital where several of her sick patients are in critical condition with an illness that is now being referred to as gay-related immune deficiency (GRID), they stay in rooms that many hospital staff are afraid to enter for fear of contracting the disease. Ned, Bruce, Mickey, and several other friends including Tommy Boatwright (Jim Parsons) establish a community organization called Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC). The organization sponsors fundraisers for research on the disease now called AIDS and establishes a telephone hotline, counseling, and other services, over Ned's objections, they elect Bruce their President. Ned arranges for his older brother, lawyer Ben Weeks (Alfred Molina), to provide free legal advice to the GMHC, the two brothers are close, but there remains an underlying tension over Ben's lack of understanding of Ned's sexuality. Ned contacts gay New York Times reporter Felix Turner (Matt Bomer), hoping that he can use his media connections to publish more stories about the unfolding health crisis. Felix laments that it's difficult getting any mainstream newspapers to report much information on AIDS, the two begin a romantic relationship.

The disease continues to spread and claim lives. Bruce attempts to travel to Phoenix with his boyfriend Albert (Finn Wittrock), who is dying, so that Albert can see his mother one more time, the airline refuses at first to fly the plane with sick Albert on board. When they do eventually get to Phoenix, Albert dies following a period of dementia, the hospital doctors refuse to examine him and issue a death certificate, and instead throw him out with the garbage while Bruce bribes a funeral home to cremate his body without a death certificate. Brookner attempts to obtain grant money to continue researching AIDS, but her efforts are rejected by government officials who do not see AIDS as a priority. Ned, meanwhile, is kicked out of GMHC for his combative and aggressive tactics to promote awareness of AIDS, which is causing tension within the group.

Felix comes down with symptoms and his body wastes away as the disease claims his life. Felix arranges for a will with the help of Ben, and leaves everything he has to Ned, the two state their love for one another at the hospital before Felix dies. A few days later, Ned visits his alma mater, Yale University, where a Gay Week is being hosted by the students, he admires how young men and women are able to dance with one another openly, without fear of discrimination.

Information is displayed about the growing number of people contracting AIDS, as Tommy's Rolodex pile (the contact info of his friends who have died from AIDS) grows bigger, eventually including Bruce Niles.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

In August 2011, Ryan Murphy said in an interview with Deadline.com that he had optioned The Normal Heart and intended to produce the film version, starring Mark Ruffalo "and maybe Julia Roberts".[4] The Hollywood Reporter confirmed the film news in January 2012, adding Alec Baldwin, Matt Bomer, and Jim Parsons to the previously announced cast.[5] In March 2013, Taylor Kitsch joined the cast;[6] in April 2013, the casting of actors Jonathan Groff and Joe Mantello was announced.[7] In May 2013, it was announced that Alfred Molina would be replacing Alec Baldwin.[8]

Filming[edit]

Principal photography began on June 8, 2013 in New York City, New York.[9] On July 12, the crew was spotted shooting the film in Little Italy,[10] during the course of filming, production was temporarily suspended to allow some of the actors to change their physical appearances; Bomer lost 40 pounds to show the ravages of AIDS on his character.[11]

Release[edit]

The film debuted on HBO on May 25, 2014, at 9 p.m., and had an earlier theatrical screening at the Inside Out Film and Video Festival in Toronto, Ontario, on May 23.[12]

Critical response[edit]

The film received critical acclaim from critics and audiences, with much praise directed toward Kramer's screenplay, drama, moral messages, production values and performances by Ruffalo, Bomer, Kitsch, Roberts and Parsons.[13] Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 94% based on reviews from 48 film critics with an average score of 7.7 out of 10. The consensus reads: "Thanks to Emmy-worthy performances from a reputable cast, The Normal Heart is not only a powerful, heartbreaking drama, but also a vital document of events leading up to and through the early AIDS crisis."[14] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 85 based on 33 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[15]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone awarded the film with a 3.5/4 and praised the film, "Written, directed and acted with a passion that radiates off the screen, The Normal Heart is drama at its most incendiary, a blunt instrument that is also poetic and profound. As gay men in crisis, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons and Joe Mantello (who played Ned onstage) all excel, but it's Kramer, still raging over what's not being done, who tears at your heart."[16] Ellen Gray of the Philadelphia Daily News commended "And though the supporting cast members are all good (Parsons particularly so), it's Kramer's fury, channeled through Ruffalo's manic energy as the writer's alter-ego Ned Weeks, that keeps The Normal Heart beating and preserves a horrific bit of all too recent history not in amber, but in anger."[17]

Murphy's direction received mixed reviews from critics. Brian Lowry of Variety criticized Murphy's direction and the story's transition from stage to screen: "Murphy being Murphy, he can't resist throwing in moments that drift toward an American Horror Story vibe, such as a subway sequence where dramatic lighting flashes in and out on a lesion-pocked face. The translation from stage to screen also yields speeches that probably played better live, although the director has for the most part opened up the Tony-winning material into movie form," although he particularly hailed The Normal Heart as "a character-oriented drama with theatrical talent and values that would face challenges finding much purchase at the modern-day multiplex, the result is a movie, for mostly better and sometimes worse, that wears its heart on its sleeve."[18] Maureen Ryan of The Huffington Post also criticized Murphy's direction, writing: "But if you do watch the film, just be aware that every few minutes you may wish that someone — anyone — other than Murphy had directed it. Murphy is a self-indulgent director and not particularly rigorous or disciplined, he serves his own muse, not necessarily the needs of the material, and though it's a classic, Kramer's play is also unwieldy and outright clumsy at time."[19]

TVLine named Bomer the "Performer of the Week" for his performance.[20]

Accolades[edit]

Awards
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients and nominees Result
Critics' Choice Television Awards June 19, 2014 Best Movie Ryan Murphy, Dante Di Loreto, Jason Blum, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Mark Ruffalo, Alexis Martin Woodall and Scott Ferguson Won
Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries Mark Ruffalo Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries Matt Bomer Won
Joe Mantello Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Movie/Miniseries Julia Roberts Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards August 25, 2014 Outstanding Television Movie Ryan Murphy, Dante Di Loreto, Jason Blum, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Mark Ruffalo, Alexis Martin Woodall and Scott Ferguson Won
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie Mark Ruffalo Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie Julia Roberts Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie Matt Bomer Nominated
Joe Mantello Nominated
Alfred Molina Nominated
Jim Parsons Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special Ryan Murphy Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special Larry Kramer Nominated
Golden Globe Awards January 11, 2015 Best Miniseries or Television Film Ryan Murphy, Dante Di Loreto, Jason Blum, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Mark Ruffalo, Alexis Martin Woodall and Scott Ferguson Nominated
Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film Mark Ruffalo Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film Matt Bomer Won
Online Film & Television Association Awards August 24, 2014[21] Best Motion Picture Ryan Murphy, Dante Di Loreto, Jason Blum, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Mark Ruffalo, Alexis Martin Woodall and Scott Ferguson Won
Best Actor in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Mark Ruffalo Won
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Matt Bomer Won
Taylor Kitsch Nominated
Joe Mantello Nominated
Alfred Molina Nominated
Jim Parsons Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Julia Roberts Nominated
Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Won
Producers Guild of America Awards January 24, 2015 Stanley Kramer Award The Normal Heart Won
Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television Ryan Murphy, Dante Di Loreto, Jason Blum, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Mark Ruffalo, Alexis Martin Woodall and Scott Ferguson Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards January 25, 2015 Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Mark Ruffalo Won
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Julia Roberts Nominated

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hetrick, Adam (May 30, 2014). ""The Normal Heart" Sets Blu-Ray and DVD Release". Playbill. Archived from the original on June 16, 2014. Retrieved June 16, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d "The Normal Heart study guide" (PDF). TimeLine Theatre. 2013. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c Kramer, Larry (2011). "Please Know". The Normal Heart on Broadway. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  4. ^ Finke, Nikki (August 5, 2011). "EMMYS Q&A: Ryan Murphy About 'Glee'". Deadline. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  5. ^ Kit, Borys (January 20, 2012). "Julia Roberts, Alec Baldwin, Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons to Star in Ryan Murphy's Next Film (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 11, 2012. 
  6. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (March 1, 2013). "Jim Parsons, Taylor Kitsch Join HBO's Ryan Murphy-Directed Movie 'The Normal Heart'". Deadline.com. Retrieved March 9, 2013. 
  7. ^ Hibberd, James (April 26, 2013). "Jonathan Groff to play Taylor Kitsch's lover in Ryan Murphy film". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 26, 2013. 
  8. ^ Ferri, Josh (May 9, 2013). "Larry Kramer Says Ryan Murphy's 'Obsessed' with The Normal Heart; Alfred Molina & Joel Grey Join HBO Film". Broadway.com. Retrieved May 12, 2013. 
  9. ^ "'The Normal Heart', starring Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, & Mark Ruffalo, begins filming in NYC this week". onlocationvacations.com. June 4, 2013. Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  10. ^ "The Normal Heart' Resumes Filming in Little Italy Today". boweryboogie.com. July 12, 2013. Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Matt Bomer on 'The Normal Heart' and Unconditional Love".
  12. ^ "The Normal Heart to premiere at Inside Out". Xtra!. May 5, 2014.
  13. ^ Miller, Bruce. "Review: Matt Bomer, Mark Ruffalo shine in 'Normal Heart'". http://siouxcityjournal.com/. Sioux City Journal. Retrieved 1 June 2014.  External link in |website= (help)
  14. ^ "The Normal Heart (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved February 25, 2015. 
  15. ^ "The Normal Heart". Metacritic. Retrieved May 24, 2014. 
  16. ^ Travers, Peter (May 22, 2014). "'The Normal Heart' Movie Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  17. ^ Gray, Ellen (May 23, 2014). "'Gang Related,' 'The Normal Heart' premiere". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  18. ^ Lowry, Brian (May 21, 2014). "'The Normal Heart' TV movie review on HBO". Variety. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  19. ^ Ryan, Maureen. "'The Normal Heart' Review: Great Performances Anchor An Uneven Film". Retrieved 18 August 2016. 
  20. ^ "TVLine's Performer of the Week: Matt Bomer". TVLine. May 31, 2014. Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  21. ^ "013-14: THE SEASON OF The Normal Heart". About.com. Online Film & Television Association. Retrieved January 14, 2015. 

External links[edit]