‘The Normal Heart’ Review Roundup: Tragic Tale About Early Years Of AIDS

Mon, May 26, 2014 8:50pm EDT by 6 Comments
Normal Heart Movie Review
Courtesy of Plan B Entertainment

‘The Normal Heart’ aired on May 25 over Memorial Day weekend, and critics have been praising Ryan Murphy’s latest venture about the heartbreaking early years of AIDS in the 1980s. Read on for reviews!

The Normal Heart, directed by Glee showrunner Ryan Murphy, is the story of Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo), a gay man in the 1980s whose friends are succumbing to a new, fatal illness — AIDS. Based on the play of the same name by Larry Kramer — who also wrote the screenplay — it has been receiving mostly rave reviews for its realistic portrayal of the AIDS crisis in America in the 1980s and how difficult it was to raise awareness and support when so many men were too afraid for their lives to even come out of the closet — including Ned’s lover, Felix Turner (Matt Bomer). Read on for reviews!

‘The Normal Heart’ Movie Review Roundup: Ryan Murphy’s Newest Venture A Must-See

Larry Kramer’s Ned Weeks is outspoken about the mysterious illness killing off gay men where many prefer to shy away from the media spotlight — that is, when the media even bother to cover the outbreak.

A passionate activist, Ned seeks to gain attention from politicians and media alike to raise awareness about the virus infecting those closest to him. However, his passion is off-putting to many — gay and straight alike — who are simply too uncomfortable to face and deal with reality.

‘The Normal Heart': A Heartbreaking Story About A Problem That Still Persists Today

It’s a heartbreaking story about a problem that still persists today, and is absolutely a must-see — not just because of the direly important subject matter, but because critics have been overwhelming in their praise. Here’s what they’ve been saying:

Vulture:

“The film doesn’t wonder. It says, ‘Yes, that’s pretty much what happened. And if you say otherwise, you’re naïve or lying.’ … If anger and suffering were all there were to The Normal Heart, watching it would be torture. Luckily, it has heart to match its guts. There’s always been a crackpot humanist sensibility in Murphy’s TV work, even when it was going for sadomasochistic violence or surreal kitsch.”

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. … Perhaps foremost, HBO once again straddles the cinematic line, providing a character-oriented drama with theatrical talent and values that would face challenges finding much purchase at the modern-day multiplex. And while there’s a premium-channel calculation in that strategy, the result is a movie, for mostly better and sometimes worse, that wears its heart on its sleeve.”

HitFix:

“Ultimately, the good in Normal Heart outweighs the bad, which isn’t always the case with Murphy’s work. It’s an important story packed with vivid individual moments, but with this material and these actors, it feels like it could be so much more than what it is.”

Vanity Fair:

“With such strong, important material to film, Murphy has found a necessary restraint, channeling his sometimes garish energy through Kramer’s keening rage. The Normal Heart is not a subtle film; Ryan Murphy doesn’t do subtlety, nor does Larry Kramer. But that’s O.K. The film’s message, that activism often needs to be truly active, is served well by Murphy and Kramer’s elegant broad strokes.”

Time:

The Normal Heart is not a nuanced film; it would probably be a betrayal of the material to turn it into one. … It’s a first draft told by a first responder, with no time for niceties. But it is deepened and rounded out by some remarkable supporting performances, especially a fantastic Jim Parsons as Tommy, a warmhearted activist volunteer. As he speaks at a friend’s memorial–remembering the many, many other friends he’s memorialized–his kindly optimism gives way to despair at the waste of lives and inaction of the larger society, and it is devastating: ‘They just don’t like us.'”

So, HollywoodLifers, did you catch The Normal Heart over the Memorial Day weekend? What did you think? If you haven’t seen it yet, will you? Let us know!

– Amanda Michelle Steiner

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norwegianwould777

Posted at 10:19 PM on May 27, 2014  

The Normal Heart was excellent. One thing I noticed was this: It’s a Recycled movie: 1989, Long Time Companion; Based on Randy Shilts’ 1981 best-selling book on the burgeoning AIDS crisis which was adapted for cable TV by Arnold Schulman. “And The Band Payed On” which goes into IV drug users, and Hemophiliacs, along with the CDC working along with the the French, finally. Philadelphia, which was excellent, and one of my favorites. “The Normal Heart” is the 2014 version written, originally written in 1985 by Larry Kramer as a play. I was glad to see it has recieved excellent reviews, and I watched it twice.

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David Rose

Posted at 1:44 PM on June 1, 2014  

In fact, Longtime Companion borrowed heavily from The Normal Heart, as it was written years before that film. Longtime Companion could have been a great film had it not tacked on that horrifyingly maudlin final beach scene

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M.L. Swift

Posted at 5:53 AM on May 27, 2014  

My sister and I watched this last night; I’d heard raves of the play, so was interested in the movie’s depiction. It didn’t fail. We were both moved to tears…tears of heartache and despair at the loss of so many good men in the prime of their lives…tears of anger and frustration at the government’s disinterest…tears of disappointment that mainstream society would’ve allowed such a thing. But they did. Until it affected them. “Is this what it was like?” said Sis.

“Unfortunately, yes.”

This was gritty realism at its best. I remember the days when the disease was unknown and called Gay Cancer, then GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency), and finally AIDS. I remember friends wearing make-up to cover the KS, marching for rights, collapsing on the street…dying in them. I remember too many funerals and even more memorials. I remember men who died alone rather than tell their families, because telling them also meant coming out, and I remember those who did having their families’ backs turned on them.

Although the time frame of the movie ended in 1985, I remember when AZT was the only drug available, then later fighting with insurance companies to put new drugs on their formularies as they became available. I remember…I remember.

It was a war, and it took men like Ned Weeks at the front lines to do battle. The Squeaky Wheel, one might say. It wasn’t a gay thing; it was a human thing that affected the gay community first. And maybe that’s why it got away from us…got away from society. As Tommy said, “They just don’t like us.”

But thank God for men like Ned and the group at the GMHC. When I read comments such as, “Stop with the Faggot stories” it only proves how far we still have yet to go.

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Mya

Posted at 9:50 PM on May 26, 2014  

This movie was pure gold I couldn’t find myself to turn the channel it was raw ,gritty realism and told the true suffering of human rights and humanity I cried , laughed & cried again this is a must see, not for the faint of heart award season gold

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Theresa

Posted at 9:43 PM on May 26, 2014  

LOVED this profound movie ! It truly told the story of HIV/AIDS ….need more historically important films like this. PS Ryan Murphy ~ this was MAGNIFICENT !!!! ( But, please stop glee – it is no longer interesting at all. )

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Caroline

Posted at 3:16 PM on May 27, 2014  

Just because you don’t find Glee interesting doesn’t mean it should be stopped, its still my fave show!

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