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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Video Beaverhausen: The Normal Heart

The Emmy-award winning The Normal Heart, adapted by Larry Kramer from his Tony-Award winning drama of that name, debuted on HBO in May and recently arrived via download, DVD and Blu-ray. The film has lost none of its urgency since 1981 even if it seems a bit less bold after all these years, and has lost none of its emotional power. Get those boxes of Kleenex out, everyone.

There was no night Larry King kissed me but he did chat me up more than once. We'd run into one another at the Korean deli off the corner when ordering coffee and breakfast for take-out. He'd been walking his dog. We only made small talk and never discussed The Normal Heart, oddly. I also never mentioned that I'd worked for many years at his brother's law firm of Kramer, Levin, Nessen, Kamin and Saul (as they were titled when I was employed there). Just lighthearted chatter. I was surprised how affable he seemed as I heard he could be difficult.

Kramer originally sold the rights of his AIDS drama to Barbra Streisand in the '80s but the two feuded over her adaptation of The Normal Heart and artistic differences ultimately thwarted the making of that film. Ahead of the HBO release, the two were still fighting. According to Playbill:

In an interview with the New York Times, Kramer, who attended the recent New York City screening of the film, said that the thought of two men having sex on screen was "very distasteful" to Streisand.
"I said [to Barbra Streisand], 'I really think it's important that after eons of watching men and women make love in the movies, it's time to see two men do so,'" Kramer told the Times. "I bought her a book of very beautiful art pictures of two men making love, and she found it very distasteful.In response, Streisand released a statement saying her intention for the movie was "to promote the idea of everyone's right to love. Gay or straight!"

She added, "Larry was at the forefront of this battle and, God love him, he's still fighting. But there's no need to fight me by misrepresenting my feelings. As a filmmaker, I have always looked for new and exciting ways to do love scenes, whether they're about heterosexuals or homosexuals. It's a matter of taste, not gender."

The HBO film version of the play seems flawless; opened up beautifully and directed with passion and control by Ryan Murphy. Performances are sturdy across the board, especially Mark Ruffalo in the lead role and Julia Roberts as the acerbic, wheelchair-bound Dr. Emma Brookner (the role Streisand coveted). Technical aspects are top-notch. 

Very highly recommended but unlikely you'd want to watch a second time until you catch your breath from your first experience. 

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