Many great movies either make it straight to DVD, so you don’t know they exist until you stumble upon them, or are only shown on TV (in another country!) which means access is limited. The Normal Heart is one such movie. Shown on HBO last May, it’s a star-studded version of Larry Kramer’s play. Set in the early 80s, the plot follows a group of gay friends who start being affected by the unknown disease (HIV/AIDS) prematurely referred to as the “gay cancer”.
Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo, divine) is a writer. Openly gay, but opposed to the excessive sex lives of his friends, he finds himself on the outskirts of his community. Visiting friends, he is for the first time exposed to a strange illness befalling a mounting number of gays. When the first victim is someone he knows (Jonathan Groff from Glee, in it way to short), he decides to investigate and meets Dr Emma Brookner (Julia Roberts, devoid of any make-up) who appears to be the only caring doctor in New York. Convinced, the “cancer” is spread through sex, she hopes to get Ned on board in order to appeal to his community to stop from doing it so often and with so many different partners.
Unfortunately, Ned and Brookner hit a brick wall as everyone feels like they are being judged and pushed back inside the closet (if they’ve left it-which is another big part of the movie). Hoping to find support and funds, Ned goes to his brother Ben (Alfred Molina), but Ben still has trouble accepting his brother’s homosexuality and refuses to be associated with the project.
Trying to get the word spread out, Ned goes to Times journalist Felix Turner (Matt Bomer, gorgeous as ever). The meeting unexpectedly leads to a date where Felix admits to having had a thing for Ned for a while. As they start dating, they become more and more involved with Brookner and a small selection of friends willing to fight against the growing epidemic (Jim Parsons, Joe Mantello, Taylor Kitsch etc.).
As the years go on though, the group is unable to raise much awareness and constantly fights against the government who appears to ignore the many dead in the manner of a child covering its ears and shouting “la la la” in order not to hear you.
The movie is a mix between Philadelphia (Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington) and Milk (Sean Penn and James Franco), while at the same time managing to stay unique. Performances are outstanding, and Matt Bomer absolutely deserves his Golden Globe. It’s great to see Julia Roberts in a part where she’s not just pretty (it’s been a while since Erin Brockovich) and Mark Ruffalo is utterly convincing in his righteous anger (a remainder of the Hulk maybe?).
Pictures from: imdb.com, usnews.com, zap2it.com, timeinc.net, abril.com.br