Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Normal Heart

Nightmares sadly can become real, as evidenced in The Normal Heart, which is a largely autobiographical play written by Larry Kramer, looking at the rise of the AIDS crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984.  In 2000, the Royal National Theatre named The Normal Heart one of the 100 greatest plays of the 20th century. Making it into a movie was not easy.  Barbra Streisand held the film rights to Larry Kramer's original play for a decade, but was unable to get financing for a feature film, and HBO (at the time) was unwilling to meet Kramer's asking price for the screenplay. Finally released in 2014, the all-star film includes Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons, Alfred Molina, Joe Mantello, Jonathan Groff, and Julia Roberts.  It's reported that some of the cast insisted on acting in the film despite the objections that it would not be good for their careers.  Bravo to them.

This important film is not easy for many to watch because of the horrific subject matter, which is probably why it did not receive the success that it deserved. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine 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 also played Ned onstage) all excel. But it's Kramer, still raging over what's not being done, who tears at your heart."  For the Rolling Stone review, please follow here.

In the film, Tommy Boatwright (Jim Parsons) pulls a card from his Rolodex and puts it along with a bunch of other cards tied with a rubber band, which was based on what David Geffen used to do during those those days as the AIDS disease was becoming a reality in lives of American gay men. On November 18th 1992, AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) gave Geffen the Commitment To Life Award at the Universal Amphitheater. During his acceptance speech he said: "When the first person I knew died, I couldn't bring myself to throw his Rolodex card away, so I saved it. I now have a rubber band around 341 cards."

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