Archive for the ‘Ryan Murphy’ Category

Death of Fire Island

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The Normal Heart

NB: This is a made for TV film

Director: Ryan Murphy

Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Julia Roberts, Stephen Spinella, Alfred Molina, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons

HBO’s The Normal Heart directed by Glee and Eat, Pray, Love director Ryan Murphy is a startling and heart wrenching tale of the outbreak of AIDS in New York’s gay community in the early 1980’s. Mark Ruffalo plays a middle aged openly gay man, Ned Weeks who gives one of the best performances of his career as he becomes the outspoken champion of gay rights and one who urges the American government to do more to fight the stigmatisation of AIDS as it ravaged the homosexual community in the mid 1980’s.

This film is set at a similar time as Jean-Marc Vallee’s Dallas Buyers Club, but unlike this Oscar winning film, is a made for Television, bravely done by HBO featuring some exceptional performances besides Ruffalo that includes Matt Bomer as his lover, Felix Turner, a young, handsome New York society journalist dying of AIDS related illnesses along with Julia Roberts as Dr Emma Brockner a wheel-chaired bound no nonsense doctor who is adamant that the American gay community need to be sufficiently educated about this disease. She goes onto advocate that the New York gay community need to immediately curb their promiscuous lifestyle, so lavishly explored in the film’s opening scenes on Fire Island, in upstate New York, the gay resort famous in the 1980’s for White Parties, wild sex and unabashed homosexual hedonism.

Audiences watching The Normal Heart should be warned this is a sad, graphic and dramatic tale of a community ravaged by an illness which they were not equipped to handle, both physically and emotionally. Remember that this is set at least 30 years ago before all the medical advances in ARV treatment globally and when AIDS research was in its infancy. Without the sufficient funding from the American government, those that suffered at the forefront of the epidemic, was an already marginalized community known only for their lascivious and risky sexual behaviour.

What director Ryan Murphy does so brilliantly is remind the audience that despite all the stigma and the prejudice, these were real professional people dying of a yet unquantified illness with a virtually non-existent health care regime and support structure.

At the core of The Normal Heart based upon a play by Larry Kramer is the remarkable performance by Mark Ruffalo who certainly has proved his worth as a serious actor in recent years especially after his recent Oscar nomination for The Kids Are Alright.

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The Normal Heart as a mainstream film, like Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra would have a fairly limited appeal, but it is comforting that HBO takes a bold leading in making these films and even attracting such A list talent like Julia Roberts, Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.

Watch out for an unrecognizable Taylor Kitsch (Savages, Lone Survivor) as Bruce Niles a young, arrogant and gorgeous gay man who appears to be immune to all the community activism and terrible threat affecting his friends along with The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parson’s in a brilliant and touching performance as Tommy Boatwright who counts the dead on his Rolladex.

This drama is brutal, heart wrenching and truly inspiring film making even if it only was made as a TV film, but really should be seen by everyone gay or straight especially in the wake of the recent commercialization of gay culture in Western mainstream media along with the associated rights and civil liberties which the gay and lesbian community have been granted in Europe and America recently, viewed within the 21st century progress made in transforming HIV into a manageable disease through a strict regime of medication controls.

The Normal Heart is highly recommended viewing, boosted by superb performances all round which should go a long way in deconstructing the stigma surrounding marginalized communities especially at the outbreak of an initially incomprehensible disease.

 

 

Eat, Pray, Love and Indulge…

Eat Pray Love

Successful TV series Glee director Ryan Murphy’s big screen adaptation of the Elizabeth Gilbert bestseller Eat Pray Love staring Julia Roberts as a New York writer who decides to embark on a years journey of spiritual discovery is infused with a luminous glow from the opening scene in luscious Bali.

No such thing as a guilty pleasure – just indulge!

Whilst any self-discovery novel is difficult to bring to the big screen especially as Elizabeth Gilbert writes about her own experience on a years trip to Italy, then India and finally Indonesia, Julia Roberts delivers a fine performance as Liz relishing in the exotic locations and a wonderful supporting cast which seems to improve as the 2 and a half hour film progresses.

Eat

The Italy section is superb and the locations especially Rome, the Italian actors and naturally the food are sumptuous and particularly easy on the viewer making the Eat section utterly enchanting.

Pray

Whilst Murphy tried to imitate the opening sequence of Slumdog Millionaire in the India section, the most moving part of the film is a standout character performance by Richard Jenkins as Richard from Texas.

For in the novel, Eat Pray Love, Richard from Texas was a character written with such accuracy and obvious charm that I kept wondering which actor would fill that part. Jenkins does a superb interpretation of a middle-aged American who has literally lost everything landing up at the Ashram to clear his mind and an overwhelming sense of guilt.

Love

The final section of Eat Pray Love, set in Bali was fascinating but after Italy and India, felt a tad faded although the scenery is still ravishing. As far as adaptation goes, the film sticks very close to the novel and Julia Roberts does a hugely impressive task of managing a character that has travelled not only literally across the globe, but also spiritually from a discontented New Yorker escaping an ugly divorce to a woman who has found serenity and peace as she discovers love again in a most unlikely man. Javier Bardem whilst always gripping to watch, gave the impression he was not quite comfortable in such a largely commercial film as Eat Pray Love. Bardem is more at home in edgier roles playing the Spanish seducer in Vicky Cristina Barcelona or the psychopathic killer in No Country for Old Men or the gay Cuban poet in Julian Schnabel’s Before Night Falls.

Bardem’s role as Felipe the love interest for Liz in the Love act of the journey lacked edge and panache in a role that was as unclear in the novel as it appeared in the film. Although watching Roberts and Bardem together was certainly interesting more for the lack of sparkle than the effort the two actors put in to contrive to make their romance believable.

Best scenes in the film are most certainly in Rome (all the sequences are exquisite) and the delightful meals Roberts character is served puts Babette’s Feast to shame. Worst scene in the film was the ending, but I’ll leave that up to the viewer to decide. Most consistency in Eat Pray Love was the varied choice of actors who played alongside Julia Roberts as her character travels the world, from Billy Crudup to  the shamefully underutilized James Franco to Richard Jenkins and finally to Javier Bardem.

As for it being a woman’s movie, not really as regardless of one’s gender anyone who has ever desired to travel or more importantly decided to take a year off from the monotony of urban living and responsibility and see countless exotic locations could surely identify with Liz’s journey. Eat Pray Love should feature at the Awards season if not for Julia Roberts most certainly for a supporting actor nomination for Richard Jenkins. Whilst it is no Razor’s Edge, Eat Pray Love will find many ardent fans the world over.

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