21 May 2014 7:15 AM, PDT | Variety - TV News | See recent Variety - TV News news »

HBO has a storied tradition of movies and miniseries tackling gay issues (and not incidentally, timing those high-class productions toward the close of the Emmy-eligibility window, ensuring they’re fresh in the minds of voters). Add to that honor roll “The Normal Heart,” a meticulously cast adaptation of Larry Kramer’s play about the early days of the AIDS epidemic, directed with equal passion (and a characteristic lack of subtlety) by Ryan Murphy. Anchored by Mark Ruffalo’s forceful performance as Kramer’s angry alter ego, the movie is big, loud, messy and emotional — a fitting bookend to 2003’s “Angels in America.”

Ruffalo stars as Ned Weeks, a writer introduced during a Fire Island romp in 1981, which essentially offers a last-call glimpse of the freewheeling times that preceded the outbreak. Soon, friends begin falling ill, as Ned seeks help from a polio-stricken doctor (Julia Roberts) and pushes to form the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, »


- Brian Lowry

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