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Angels in America

13 December 2005
Posted in: Scratchpad | 8 Comments

While I am not one for watching too many movies, I do see a few now and then. And while quite a few have made me laugh or cry (which, of course, I deny!), made me think or feel outraged, Angels in America surprised me!

Because I liked it.

Angels in America is based on Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer-winning play of the same name. In 2003 it was adapted as a TV mini-series and won a Golden Globe and an Emmy. The screenplay was written by Kushner, with minor changes from the original to help it along on screen.

Though mainly a story about AIDS in the mid-1980s, when it was a poorly understood disease, I suspect it also had a lot to do with various social and political issues of the day in America in that period. I am deeply sceptical of philosophical waffle and stuff like that, and was honestly a bit cynical when I started watching it. However, the dialogue, especially the humour, was quite riveting, and so was the story. And if you’re looking for realistic, once you explain away the appearance of the ghosts and angel as the hallucinations of a very sick man, it’s not so hard to like!

The story in short centres around six people, and some of them absolutely reprehensible. Prior Walters and Louis Ironson are a homosexual couple, lovers for over four years. Prior develops AIDS and Louis, unable to handle it, leaves him. Joe Pitt and his valium-addicted wife Harper are a Mormon couple, and Joe is a closet case. Joe’s mentor, the elderly Roy Cohn, offers him a major posting. (Cohn, by the way, is based on a real-life character.)

Cohn, a manipulating and ruthless lawyer, also has AIDS, but insists on calling it “liver cancer”. He finds himself alone in hospital, in the company of a nurse called Belize, a black man and former drag-queen. Belize is also a friend of Prior’s. Meanwhile, as Joe and Harper’s marriage flounders, Joe’s mother Hannah moves to New York to look after Harper.

Prior’s deterioration is quite shocking to watch, and in my opinion, actor Justin Kirk did a great job. He is visited by ghosts and an angel who tells him he is a prophet. Despite his suffering, he nevertheless chooses life, and the hope that comes with it, over “heaven” and a chance to end his pain-filled existence. Apart from Prior, Belize and Hannah are the only people in the play who seem to have any amount of decency.

The idea that God has abandoned heaven and left the world to its suffering is fascinating. “If he returns, sue him,” is what Prior tells the angels (or something like it) when he refuses their offer to be a prophet in death!

Well, it’s certainly not a warm, light, frothy, family movie. But I’d say, if one has about six hours to spare, one should watch it.

~PD

8 Responses

  1. alpana says:

    Reporting on duty, SIR!

  2. Payal says:

    Very funny! 🙄

  3. Marie says:

    I have no idea what to say but I figured I’d comment so you’d leave me alone!

  4. Proteeti says:

    I watched just a part of Angels in America, partly because I caught a very late night screening and was too sleepy to do it justice. But whatever I did catch, I really liked (and not just because I love both Meryl Streep and Al Pacino). It’s all the more interesting if you DON’T consider the angels and ghosts mere hallucinations of very sick and dying men, actually! Am waiting for the movie channels to air it again, so I can properly sit through it this time.

  5. shilpa says:

    isn’t meryl streep in this movie??

  6. Payal says:

    Well, actually, I did like the ghosts and angels :oops:, but I have a reputation to maintain!! The two prior Priors are cute—I loved the “Oh, I get it, he’s a sodomite!” part!

    Anyway, I doubt it’ll get repeated in a hurry. Definitely not in prime time, I guess. It’s got content that our lovely society perceives as “inappropriate” 🙄

    Oh, and if you see the book anywhere, do let me know!

  7. Kate says:

    I also liked this very much. 🙂 It’s definitely not something for light entertainment!

    It wouldn’t be considered entirely “appropriate” over here either, Payal. 🙄

  8. Meenal says:

    the movie/mini series is actually is quite heavy and I loved Meryl Streep in it .

    Al Pacino was pitiful by which i mean he played the pitiful character very well.

    this one won multiple Emmys

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