Archive for the ‘Ryan Murphy’ Category

Broadway Comes Out in Indiana

The Prom

Director: Ryan Murphy

Cast: Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, Andrew Rannells, Kerry Washington, Tracey Ullman, Keegan-Michael Key, Ariana Debose, Jo Ellen Pellman

This Film is Only Available on Netflix

Eat, Pray, Love director Ryan Murphy and TV writer of such hit shows as American Horror Story, Glee, American Crime Story assembles an all-star cast for the Netflix film production of the Broadway hit show The Prom, about a group of failed Broadway stars who decide to take on a personal crusade to assist a teenage lesbian girl Emma Nolan played by Jo Ellen Pelman who is not allowed to take her in the closet girlfriend Alyssa Greene played by Ariana Debose to the James Madison High School prom in conservative Indiana, in the American mid-West.

Besides James Corden’s cringe worthy performance as gay theatre actor Barry Glickman, it’s really three time Oscar winner Meryl Streep’s beautiful and tantalizing turn as the Broadway Star Dee Dee Allen which makes The Prom worth watching.

Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours) reunites with Meryl Streep and stars as the leggy actress Angie Dickinson to give some back up support. The Boys in the Band and Black Monday star Andrew Rannells plays the dashing but slightly dim-witted Trent Oliver, also a wannabe Broadway actor.

Django Unchained star Kerry Washington plays Alyssa’s conservative mother Mrs Greene, which is an interesting casting choice and Washington pulls off the role as a stuffy PTA mother who is ruling her daughter’s life and spearheading a campaign to prevent the lesbian Emma from bring another girl to the prom.

The traditional nexus of liberal open-minded egotism which clashes with small town conservatism is explored and laboured upon multiple times with numerous bouncy song numbers, which is just sufficient to convert the conservatism into an acceptance of all LGBT teenagers in the Midwest. Idyllic but not realistic. After all Broadway is a far cry from Indiana.

Director Ryan Murphy’s obsession with Indiana comes from the fact that he was born and grew up there, so The Prom could be a story about the director’s own difficulties with coming out in a conservative environment.

Barry Glickman’s own coming out as a gay man is heightened by the arrival of his mother Vera wonderfully played by Tracey Ullman, James Corden’s co-star in Into the Woods.  

The Prom is a really light and fluffy musical, a dream inspired vision of a culturally accepting Midwest which is a far cry from reality. Meryl Streep channels her Oscar nominated performance from The Devil Wears Prada as the outrageously narcissistic Broadway star Dee Dee Allen, although the script leaves such talented stars as Streep and Kidman floundering to make a lasting impression.

If audiences are looking for something superfluous and unsubstantial, then watch The Prom, it’s fun  but not intellectually challenging. This film is a far cry from Gus van Sant’s Oscar winning film Milk but nor is it meant to make a significant statement about LGBT rights in American schools in the 21st century.

The Prom gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and watch it for Meryl Streep and no one else. Streep plays a Ryan Murphy inspired version of herself, which is poignant since he had a fan club of her work when he was in high school in Indiana.

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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