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Is ‘The Normal Heart’ Officially An Emmy Frontrunner?

Is 'The Normal Heart' Officially An Emmy Frontrunner?

With first reviews rolling in for Ryan Murphy’s HBO movie “The Normal Heart,” Indiewire’s Assistant TV Editor Ben Travers and Contributing Writer and Awards Editor Peter Knegt break down the film’s odds for nominations — and wins — at this years Primetime Emmy Awards.

Travers: Ok, so you wisely pointed out in your review that every actor gets a “grandiose speech” that feels tailor made for an awards run. Which one worked for you and which one really didn’t? 

Knegt: I think Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts knew very well how to play into the overdramatics they were dealt. I’d be pretty shocked at this point if both weren’t nominated for Emmys, and only slightly less so if they didn’t win. 

Travers: I’m with you. The only category I see them losing right now is Best Actress, and that’s only because they won’t be submitting anyone. Ruffalo and Roberts are big enough names in the industry to earn votes just for that, and they really did tap into an emotional core some actors missed. My biggest gripe is with Jim Parsons, whose eulogy just didn’t fit to begin with and “Sheldon” couldn’t save it.

READ MORE: Ryan Murphy Finally Finds the Pulse of ‘The Normal Heart’ in an Uneven but Devastating Adaptation

Knegt: Yeah, Parsons is fine when he’s playing this underwritten sassy queen, but then when he finally gets that big moment, it’s pretty clear he’s not an exceptional dramatic actor. Or I guess maybe it’s just clear that Ryan Murphy doesn’t know how to handle sentiment. Either way, if Parsons gets an Emmy nomination this year, here’s hoping it’s for “The Big Bang Theory” (which is something I never thought I’d say).

Travers: As long as we’re hoping, let’s hope he gets neither. For me, the standout player from “The Normal Heart” is either Ruffalo or Matt Bomer. While I think I’d give more credit to the new Hulk for breathing life into a complex character who’s heavily scrutinized in the movie and will be by viewers, I’m guessing more love will be paid to Bomer. Which is fine. That weight loss will draw Emmys’ eyes, and it’s only the tipping point of his most powerful performance to date. 

Knegt: Yeah, I’d say Bomer joins Roberts and Ruffalo in the locked-in positions. Awards love physical transformations, but I have to say that despite my issues with the film overall, I was pretty impressed with how refined Bomer’s work was beyond that. I’d really never seen him in anything besides “Magic Mike,” so I wasn’t sure what to expect from him.

Travers: A friend of mine loves “White Collar,” so I’ve seen how charismatic he can be when he dials up the charm (as he did in the early scenes). It was his physical and mental transformation in the second half that won me over, which is saying something. I’m Team Kitsch all the way, but he was overshadowed here. He didn’t really have a big enough role to contend with Bomer, even if his scene late in the film —  when his boyfriend’s corpse is literally thrown in the trash — wrecked me.

READ MORE: HBO’s ‘The Normal Heart’ Is an Overdramatic Mess and a Missed Opportunity

Knegt: Alright, let me preface what I’m about to say by noting I’m generally a huge fan of Taylor Kitsch and I’ve been rooting for him to rise from the ashes of “Battleship” and “John Carter.” But I definitely didn’t think it happened here. Partly because it was, yes, a totally underwritten role. Though I didn’t think Kitsch even did much with what he was dealt. Even the scenes you mentioned didn’t have much effect on me. Really, the only onscreen relationships that really resonated personally were Ruffalo and Bomer’s, and the small but excellent one with Ruffalo and Alfred Molina, who plays his brother. As far as I’m concerned if anyone should be joining Bomer in the supporting actor category, it’s Molina.

Travers: I wouldn’t dispute that, and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he does. He’s an easy character for Emmys voters to identify with, and Molina himself has built up an impressive resume over the years — too impressive to be without a nomination from the Emmys or Globes. I still expect Emmys voters to flock to the film as a whole, though not with the fervor of superior TV movies or miniseries of the past, like “Angels in America.” It can’t touch that extraordinary artistic touchstone, but it may take over a lot of nomination slots like Tony Kushner’s adaptation did in 2004.

Knegt: I mean, one thing it REALLY has going for it is lack of competition. There’s only a few, divisive other TV movies in the running — “Killing Kennedy,” “The Trip To Bountiful,” “Burton and Taylor,” “Barrymore” and “Clear History.” And even the miniseries competition (which it will compete against in the acting categories) has been muted thanks to “True Detective” opting to compete as a drama series.  Even though it’s nowhere near the greatness that was “Angels in America,” you’re right — it could end up with a similar haul.

Check out all  of Indiewire’s Emmy Predictions at our awards page.

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