TV

‘The Normal Heart’ Reviews: Mark Ruffalo And Matt Bomer Are ‘Heartbreaking’

The HIV-AIDS crisis play was a hit on Broadway, but what about HBO's take?

by Kaite Calautti

Last night, HBO premiered director Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of writer Larry Kramer’s play documenting the rise of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984. Mark Ruffalo (who first confirmed his role to MTV in 2010) plays the film’s central character, Ned Weeks, a gay man struggling to rally together support to combat a then-unknown disease rapidly killing members of the gay community.

The star-studded cast also includes Taylor Kitsch as a closeted investment banker, Matt Bomer as Weeks’ lover, Julia Roberts as a wheelchair-bound doctor leading the charge to understand the illness, Alfred Molina as Weeks’ brother, and Jim Parsons as an early supporter. We tuned in and cry-snotted ourselves accordingly, but did critics have as visceral (and tissue-strewn) a reaction?

Read on for our round-up of “The Normal Heart” reviews:

It Should’ve Been a Miniseries
“…Even at two hours and 15 minutes, it’s hard for Murphy and Kramer to cram in all the years, tears and politics. Whereas the play could be more direct, a film needs to breath a bit, but this one can’t — it’s a wonder that HBO didn’t make this a miniseries instead.” – Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter

Ruffalo and Bomer Crush It
“Indeed, the casting of these two men alone gives the play new life. Ruffalo is a performer of such depth he could, and did, infuse the Hulk with soul. Meanwhile, Bomer’s fine work on ‘White Collar’ has proved him the actor Hollywood believed for decades could not exist — an openly gay man who can still make women swoon playing a straight lead. Here, the pair are just heartbreaking.” – Mary McNamara, The Los Angeles Times

But Murphy’s Direction is a Smidge Heavy-Handed
“But if you do watch the film, just be aware that every few minutes you may wish that someone — anyone — other than Murphy had directed it. Murphy is a self-indulgent director and not particularly rigorous or disciplined. He serves his own muse, not necessarily the needs of the material, and though it’s a classic, Kramer’s play is also unwieldy and outright clumsy at time.” – Maureen Ryan, The Huffington Post

It Has a Universal Message
“Beyond portraying the dawning horror of AIDS, this is a story broadly about activism and what it takes to make change. Working inside the system or outside the system? Moderation or militancy? Raising sympathy or raising hell?” – James Poniewozik, Time

It’s Also a Story Filled With Hope and Love
“If anger and suffering were all there were to The Normal Heart, watching it would be torture. Luckily, it has heart to match its guts.” – Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture

What did you think of “The Normal Heart”?