Angels in America by Mike Nichols
 a mini-series by Mike Nichols
 2003 | 352 mins | US
 ›› Angels in America
 a major screen adaptation by Tony Kushner of his noted play
 available on DVD as part of the Warner Home Video catalogue
 cameo appearance by Tony Kushner as a Rabbi on Bench
starring: Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Jeffrey Wright, Justin Kirk, Ben Shenkman, Mary-Louise Parker, Patrick Wilson, Robin Weigert, James Cromwell, Brian Markinson
OK, this is not a feature film, but it is the mini-series equivalent of Brokeback Mountain, given this major HBO Films adaptation by Tony Kushner of his noted stage play won practically every single prize that the television industry has to offer, including five Golden Globe® and an astonishing eleven Emmy® awards. Then again, this is a production that arrived with a host of star players, each of whom vividly depict the multitude of emotions ingrained in the play upon which this mini-series is based. Only given such, it is almost impossible to detail the complexity of the story that is ANGELS IN AMERICA. For this is not your standard work charting the social and political ramifications of AIDS. Rather this is a multi-dimensional piece that like its theatrical counterpart, is not so much a drama, but more an-all-out experience.

And the experience is one that charts the life of Prior Walter; a man left to cope with AIDS alone, having been abandoned by his partner Louis. His ex however is soon to chance upon the closeted homosexual Mormon Republican mind and body of one Joe Pitt, whose wife Harper spends her days tripping out on one too many pills. Then again their marriage is all but over, prone as he is to 'night-time walks in the park' and an activity that his boss is certainly not aware of, given he spends his days providing the legal paperwork for Roy Cohn, a ruthless right-wing lawyer who refuses to be labeled as a homosexual with AIDS. Yet all is set to change, for Angels in America are starting to manifest.

Complete with a series of lengthy monologues and a multitude of hallucinogenic sequences that interweave separate strands of the story together, this work brilliantly details not only the effects that AIDS had on America, but the misuse of power itself. And no more so than in the character that was the real life Roy M Cohn, a closeted power-broker who used his influence not only against those of his own kind, but to engage with Judge Kaufmann in a series of illegal conferences during the trial of Ethel Rosenberg. To this end, Al Pacino is expertly cast in the part of Cohn and yet he does not steal the show; rather he plays his role allowing others to shine. This not only includes the like of such big names as Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson, but equally the fine portrayals of Justin Kirk as Prior Walter, Ben Shenkman as his partner Louis and Patrick Wilson as Joe Pitt. And yet it is the tour-de-force support work from Mary-Louise Parker as Harper Pitt and Jeffrey Wright that deserve specific attention; Wright having starred in the April 1993 New York stage production and here seemingly effortlessly reprises his role of Prior Walter's gay best friend Belize and male nurse to the hospitalised Cohn.

The end result is work, as based on a momentous play, that for many marks one of the finest dramas of our time. Yet others find this piece confusing, sometimes even downright irritating. What it is without doubt is a gay-to-the-core mini-series that in keeping with its theatrical origin, saw various members of the cast portray multiple roles; some obvious, some only apparent as the end credits roll. Yet it equally marks a testament as to how absolute power corrupts absolutely, let alone the devastating consequences of the AIDS epidemic. Simply superb.
Copyright 2007 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
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