TV Review: ‘Larry Kramer In Love & Anger’

Sundance Film Festival Larry Kramer in
Courtesy of HBO Docs

The timing couldn’t be better for HBO’s premiere of the documentary “Larry Kramer In Love & Anger.” Although it bowed at Sundance earlier this year, the commercial debut now follows the landmark SCOTUS decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. It’s a turn of events that tireless gay rights activist Kramer could only have dreamt of, and adds an extra layer of poignancy to a rather straightforward, if frequently stirring, doc.

In looking back at Kramer’s life and legacy, with a particular focus on his work raising awareness for AIDS victims and the need for research during the ’80s, “Love & Anger” covers much of the same ground already dramatized in Kramer’s autobiographical play “The Normal Heart,” which memorably reached screens on the cabler just a little over a year ago.

That gives the directorial debut of Kramer pal Jean Carlomusto a feeling of “been there, heard that” for anyone who saw either the stageplay or Ryan Murphy’s tremendously acted screen adaptation. It doesn’t help that Carlomusto has very little new footage to add to the mix, instead relying heavily on archival interviews with Kramer and contemporaries.

Kramer, who recently turned 80 and is not in great health, could only participate in the doc’s production in a limited capacity, but by allowing cameras into his hospital room where he recovers from a liver transplant, he also provides some of the film’s most affecting moments. That includes his 2013 marriage to partner David Webster, which happened inside the hospital room, with only a few close friends in attendance.

There’s no question Kramer deserves definitive doc treatment. His story — from closeted Connecticut boy to landmark screenwriter, author and playwright to a founder of both the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP — encompasses much of the gay rights movement. And his confrontational brand of no apologies activism is powerful and persuasive enough to serve as a model for anyone fighting for the cause of equal rights.

Even if “Love & Anger” largely rehashes the legacy Kramer has already written for himself, it still captures the inspirational spirit of its subject. And by offering up a portrait of a man who never stops fighting, the doc becomes an unintentionally timely reminder that marriage equality is just one milestone in an ongoing battle.

TV Review: 'Larry Kramer In Love & Anger'

(Documentary; HBO, Mon. June 29, 9 p.m.)

Production

A HBO Documentary Films and Cresting Moon production.

Crew

Executive producer, Sheila Nevins, producers, Jean Carlomusto, Ellin Baumel; supervising producer, Jacqueline Glover; co-producer, Shanti Avirgan; director, Carlomusto; camera, Alex Rappoport, James Wentzy; editor, Geof Bartz; music, Wendy Blackstone. 82 MIN.

Cast

Larry Kramer, David Webster, John Cameron Mitchell, Wendy Woodley, Calvin Trillin.

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