The Setup: The advent of HIV/AIDS is met with heavy denial and ignorance from both inside and outside gay society in the early 80s. Ed Weeks (Mark Ruffalo) tries to raise awareness in the midst of men dropping one after another.
The Film: A gay movie about HIV/AIDS? You don’t say. Even though we’ve been without one for a good long while now, it’s no surprise that many people (gay, straight, or otherwise) won’t bother with this movie because they’ll feel like they’ve seen it before. Technically, they’re right, but what they don’t know is that they’ve never seen it done this amazingly well before.
They also probably haven’t seen gay men represented by so many actual gay men before. The cast is large and populated with nearly every out actor you can think of (and a couple you may not, like BD Wong), plus it was written by Larry Kramer and directed by Ryan Murphy. The subject material may be well worn, but it’s the first time we’ve been able to tell the story ourselves in every way.
I’d love to see Ryan Murphy actually give a shit about the things he creates like he clearly gave a shit about this film, because when he cares, he can make some truly incredible things. This is one of them. Well crafted, well captured, superbly and passionately acted, from a film standpoint there’s hardly a negative thing to say. The Normal Heart is best film centered gay issues since Brokeback Mountain.
That being said, it does go by the numbers of gay drama. It is however, sharply written and unapologetic gay drama. This is probably the most honest look at the HIV/AIDS outbreak without touching on melodrama that has ever been filmed.
I want stories to feature people who are other than straight without the entire story revolving around their sexuality, but that doesn’t mean this film should not exist or exist in some other way. We needed The Normal Heart for reasons other than originality, something I hadn’t quite realized until I watched it.
The Slash: Talking about ‘oooo these two guys are hot’ or ‘wow the chemistry slash fans watch it now’ would be disingenuous to the heart of this movie. So I won’t.
The Verdict: Nothing “new” except the honesty with which the messages are delivered, and that doesn’t really matter. Must see.
Film Rating: 9/10
Slash Rating: Not the point.