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TV Review: HBO’s ‘The Normal Heart’

HBO premieres The Normal Heart—directed by Ryan Murphy and adapted from Larry Kramer’s play of the same name—on Sunday May 25, 9 p.m. ET. The following are reviews from TV critics around the web, compiled by B&C.

“HBO has a storied tradition of movies and miniseries tackling gay issues (and not incidentally, timing those high-class productions toward the close of the Emmy-eligibility window, ensuring they’re fresh in the minds of voters). Add to that honor roll The Normal Heart, a meticulously cast adaptation of Larry Kramer’s play about the early days of the AIDS epidemic, directed with equal passion (and a characteristic lack of subtlety) by Ryan Murphy. Anchored by Mark Ruffalo’s forceful performance as Kramer’s angry alter ego, the movie is big, loud, messy and emotional — a fitting bookend to 2003’sAngels in America.”
—Brian Lowry, Variety

“In 1985 there was an urgency galvanizing The Normal Heart. In 2014, the animating force is melodrama—to give us all a good cry over what’s happened, and then at the end remind us that HIV still infects over 6,000 people daily. The film deserves points for the reminder that this isn’t just our elders’ fight, but HBO’s The Normal Heart won’t inspire an audience to act up at all. If only it had less of Murphy’s inner Bruce and more of his inner Ned.”
—Brandon Nowalk, A.V. Club

“This strong film version of Larry Kramer's play keeps the shock, anger and sadness of a tragedy from getting lost in history, successfully reminding a new generation of how ‘gay cancer’ changed everything and the struggle that ensued.”
—Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter

“It is a moment of fury and grace and wonder that this Heart, in which a brutally specific story is deftly re-tailored for another medium and time, loses none of its original passion or pointedness. Where the play sought to make the personal political, this Normal Heart steps back enough to make room for characters to develop as fully as the message. The political comes full circle and is personal once again.”
—Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times

“As superb as Ruffalo is, there are others who intermitently exceed him, at least in those few sharply drawn moments that underscore the furious urgency of the play (and movie): Joe Mantello, as Gay Men's Health Crisis staffer Mickey Marcus, who rages against Weeks and his own confusion. Or Parson's Boatwright, who collected and saved the Rolodex cards of the dead. Or Bomer's Turner, who is slowly consumed by the disease killing so many thousands of others. Or Roberts, as the wheelchair-bound Cassandra whose fury may actually exceed Weeks'. The cast succeeds, and in the end, so does Heart.
—Verne Gay, Newsday