Skip to comments.'Angels in America'miniseries about AIDS(Roy Cohn,Reagan,Mormons,gay fantasia)
Posted on 12/05/2003 4:38:06 PM PST by fight_truth_decay
You know you're in for a grand odyssey when you embark on "Angels in America." The epic six-hour flight is composed of two parts, the first showing on HBO at 8 p.m. Sunday and the second set for Dec. 14.
The first view is intoxicating. You sail above cotton-candy clouds drifting over San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge; it feels like heaven, until the clouds clear and we're staring down at the gray Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City. We cruise next past the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and end up in New York City, where we meet the five people with whom we'll become intimate over the next three hours.
They take us into hell with them: The hell humans create on Earth.
It's hot, it's humid and it's irresistible. Tony Kushner's adaptation of his Pulitzer- and Tony-winning play is easily the most absorbing story to hit any screen, big or small, in a long time. Director Mike Nichols deploys a dream team of actors: Emma Thompson as the Angel, among other characters; Al Pacino as the devil, specifically Reagan crony Roy Cohn; Mary-Louise Parker as Harper, a Valium-gulping Mormon housewife; Patrick Wilson as her porcelain husband, Joe; and Meryl Streep as his Mormon mama. In a concurrent plot line, Justin Kirk and Ben Shenkman are Prior Walter and Louis, lovers ripped asunder by the AIDS virus. Jeffrey Wright also mesmerizes in two roles: Belize, a nurse and friend of Prior Walter, and Mr. Lies, a figment of Harper's hallucinations.
The movie is about AIDS in 1985, closeted gay men and the currents of hate swirling around them. Though set during the Reagan years and subtitled "Millennium Approaches," the story is not stale. That's because it is also about the power - and the necessity - of unconditional love.
"Angels" is a seething masterwork of political drama, but it works on an intensely personal level. By the halfway point, we care about the two couples as if they are family. To say they're dysfunctional would be an understatement - but that's what makes us relate to them deeply.
Kushner's characters, like most of us, struggle to live their lives according to narratives they had all mapped out: If I do this, then this, then this, I'll be happy. I've found a life partner, we're doing our darnedest to make it work, so we deserve some peace.
In come the forces of intolerance. The world's going crazy around us, in ways we couldn't have anticipated. Power-ravenous people such as Roy Cohn and Ronald Reagan - according to Kushner - rewrite the rules to fit their appetites. They poison the environment, placing their personal clout above any kind of human connection they might have created with family or life partners.
Pacino is by turns terrifying and pathetic as the Reaganite with AIDS. His opposite is Joe, the beautiful blond Mormon who believed he could quash his homosexuality if he prayed hard enough. The camera drinks in his and Harper's faces, until we're swimming in their tormented eyes. That's something television can do that theatrical productions of "Angels" cannot: The extreme close-up that provides a look inside a character's soul.
Kushner's dialogue devastates even as it howls with humor. Certain bits summarize the scenes, while relieving the gravity of the situation like magic pills.
"We're happy enough," Harper says to Joe. "Pretend happy; it's better than nothing."
In Prior Walter's hospital room, nurse Emily (played by Thompson) asks Louis, "Are you his, uh ...?" He replies, deadpan, "Yes, I'm his uh."
Kushner has his characters sum up his recollections of the Reagan years: Cohn's doctor (James Cromwell), says, "Sometimes the body even attacks itself," while Cohn himself is more blunt: "This is not a good world," he tells Joe, in an effort to bring his protégé down to his level.
Joe, by rejecting his true nature, already put himself in his own region of hell. So has Louis, by abandoning his lover. He says he wants to be with Prior Walter, but can't summon the strength to stay at his side.
Meantime, Cohn carries on as a ringleader in the Reagan circus. We can only imagine how the current Bush administration, with its unfulfilled promises of help for AIDS-afflicted Africa and its stance against gay marriage, would fare if Kushner unleashed his wrath upon it. The playwright recently told The New York Times that he's determined to put Bush out in 2004.
The movie makes use of grand pullbacks over New York City, periodically widening our perspective. By contrast, the interior scenes, such as one inside Joe and Harper's kitchen, wrench us into the characters' inner anguish.
There's Harper, desperate to get past her husband's prim facade. She rattles around the apartment all day, leaving the refrigerator and oven doors open. Joe comes home and closes them carefully, trying to defuse the household's imminent implosion.
Then we come around a corner and see the characters transcend, for a moment, their earthly suffering. They do it by connecting with and accepting each other. Prior Walter, in one such moment, stops writhing in his sickbed long enough to have his role as a prophet affirmed by a pair of ancestors. It is at these points of acceptance, of comprehension, that heaven comes down, like a shaft of light, to Earth. When an individual understands his connection to the universe, that's the moment at which the Angel appears.
Overwrought? Yes, oh, yes. "Angels in America" is refreshingly high drama. It's nothing less than a trip to heaven and hell, with a motley and fascinating crew of travelers.
But perhaps there is a connection via the Hollywood blacklist, to which RR is said to have been sympathetic.....
Uh sure he will, as soon as he gets the gerbil out of his...
Freudian slip, peewee?
This decades "All in the Family"
I set my parameters for child mortality and population as a whole, in Sub-Saharan Africa, from 1960 to the present. Since AIDS is such a highly reported epidemic over there among the kiddies and adults, the death trend should be reflective of said disease d' jour. What do you think I found?
That's right, no increase in child mortality at any time, just a decrease. There was likewise no reduction in population at any time, just a constant increase.
So, will someone tell me how such a mass killer is so ineffective? Maybe, just maybe, the AIDS epidemic is only a political reality. Since you can't justify billions of dollars in international welfare to a skeptical public, you can justify the looting of the taxpayer by saying (over and over again) ...it's for the children of AIDS parents ...AIDS isn't just for homosexual men spreading the virus through the thin, easily-torn membrane of the colon, African heteros get it too ...if we don't stop it there, we'll be next ...these people aren't suffering from ignorance, poor sanitation, immoral lifestyles, environmental pathogens, poverty, drugs or internecine warfare, AIDS IS KILLING THEM.
But in my bias & ignorance, maybe someone can enlighten me as to how an epidemic grows a population in all categories and leads to longer life expectancy in all age groups?
Sangfroid? Who talks that way?
This is a gay, sicko play, symptomatic of the larger homosexual problem: they're dieing, and no one cares.
Was that the one with "Archie Bunker?" I never saw more than a couple minutes of that... TV as entertainment was quickly waning for me even then.
Well thats just too bad because it seems that Hollywood is going to insert some sort of gay agenda into anything you watch on tv or see in the movie theater. Furthermore, more and more stories will appear on news shows, like this morning's show with Diane Sawyer, deifying gays. And if you don't like it shoved down your throat, then you are inseeeensitie and must join some sort of government ordered diveeeersity class.
If can't see the sarcasm, I am sick of it as well.
I daresay very few Americans will be interested in watching this program. I mean, how representative of America is it?