At the risk of outing myself as an uncommon churl, news of an HBO adaptation of Larry Kramer’s play The Normal Heart didn’t exactly ring my dinner bell with excitement. My response was more along the lines of “Why this? Why now?” Like an Arthur Miller classic brought down from the attic, another rollout of Kramer’s stage drama threatened to release the dust bunnies of a diligently worthy uplifting enterprise; it seemed like a noble gesture, a solemn nod from the premier pay-cable outfit that has stormed the ramparts with Game of Thrones and fished godless dread out of the mazy bayou with True Detective. Like a lot of us, I’ve gotten spoiled by HBO’s freshness. To be presented on HBO over Memorial Day weekend, The Normal Heart touts a quick-on-the-draw director (Ryan Murphy, he ofGlee and American Horror Story) and a Justice League cast (Julia Roberts, Mark Ruffalo, Joe Mantello, Jonathan Groff, Alfred Molina, Jim Parsons), but the original material has none of the gold-lamé splendacity of HBO’s royal ta-da last Memorial Day weekend—Steven Soderbergh’s Liberace fandango, Behind the Candelabra, which went lawdy-miss-gaudy and enshrined Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in a rococo array of fall-of-the-Roman-Empire ensembles. The Normal Heart is a much squarer construction, which may account for its durability. It goes in no new directions, but the direction it goes drives fierce. Still, why this, why now?
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