Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Cri De Coeur

Larry Kramer's play The Normal Heart caused quite a stir when it opened off-Broadway in 1985.  Kramer, a writer and activist, tried to put on stage the devastating impact of the AIDS epidemic, and did a lot of finger-pointing along the way.  Now he's adapted his play for HBO, starring Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts, directed by Ryan Murphy.  And though it's received wide acclaim, I'm not sure how well the drama has held up.

The film does a good job capturing the bewildering feeling of being part of a community rent apart by a plague.  The early moments, when this disease, unknown, unnamed, is creeping up on the gay New York scene, work pretty well.  But then we get to the outrage, and the piece becomes almost a series of angry rants. (The lead character, who's constantly inflamed, is based on Larry Kramer himself.  If it's accurate, I can only say he must be an exhausting person to be around.)

I'm sure back in the early years of the epidemic such speeches felt cathartic.  But now that we have some perspective, the main emotion that comes through is self-righteousness.  The piece, I suppose, is a useful documentation of a place and an era, but as drama it has serious failings.


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