***/**** Image A- Sound A- Extras C+
starring Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Julia Roberts
written by Larry Kramer, from his play
directed by Ryan Murphy
by Bryant Frazer The Normal Heart begins in 1981, as a ferry pulls in to Fire Island Pines, the nexus of social life for well-off gay New Yorkers who prize sunshine and sexual freedom. Stepping off that boat is Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo), a writer from New York who seems at once titillated and disturbed by the buff, barely-dressed men suddenly surrounding him. Weeks, it turns out, is a notorious buzzkill. He wrote an infamous novel criticizing promiscuity ("All I said was having so much sex makes finding love impossible," he objects when called on it), and he resists joining the party with his sexually-active friends, instead watching from the sidelines when their dancing gets dirty. Still, he's human, and wanders into the woods in search of more ephemeral--and anonymous--companionship. As he leaves the island, a newspaper headline draws his attention: "Rare Cancer Is Diagnosed in 41 Homosexuals." And so it begins.