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Early Frost

1 rating: 3.0
A movie directed by John Erman

This award-winning TV drama portrays an average American family who must cope with the realization that their homosexual son is dying of AIDS. Contains outstanding performances and exerts commendable effort in use of subject matter.

Tags: Movies, Dramas
Director: John Erman
Release Date: 1985
MPAA Rating: Unrated
1 review about Early Frost

An Early Frost - 1985

  • Jun 11, 2011
Rating:
+3
Pros: a break through a heavy subject; documentary extra

Cons: seemed a little too neat at times

The Bottom Line:


"If you can’t cope
I will dry your eyes
I will fight your fight
I will hold you tight
And I wont let go"
~Rascal Flatts



Director John Erman took on an unknown and frightening project when he decided to proceed with An Early Frost, back in 1985.   Years later writers Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman would branch out again when they took on the outstanding Queer As Folk.   But in 1985 the dreaded AIDS info network was fairly stagnant, not that it has improved much 25 years later.  People are still blinded by the word and haven't progressed much more than in this film when it comes to approaching someone with the virus.  

This was a made-for-TV movie originally and I'm sure the bigwigs were terrified to make this step forward.   The censors hung heavy over the production, not allowing any personal, more private, contact between the male characters.   I couldn't find a real rating but I would imagine it carried a heavy "for mature audiences" only.  Overall the film was nominated for 19 awards, winning seven of them.

The story:
Michael Pierson is a successful attorney, living with Peter Hilton, and having a rich life.   I don't mean financially but emotionally, not that he was hurting financially either.   It wasn't uncommon, during this era, to keep your personal lifestyle hidden, much like today people tended to shy away from same-sex partners.   However, Michael received some disturbing news, he discovered he was HIV+ and had advanced into AIDS.   He didn't understand how this could happen, he had been faithful to Peter throughout their relationship.  Of course now we know it can remain dormant up to 10 years before rearing its ugly head, but the movie didn't have that information at the time or didn't share it, either way.

Then Michael discovered that when he was gone for an extended period of time, during his relationship with Peter, Peter had stepped out, more than once, and apparently had contracted the disease from one of his casual partners.  Michael, unable to deal with this transgression, on top of AIDS, leaves Peter and returns to his family home and the, in his mind, safety of his relatives.

His father received the information with stoic countenance, his mother with tears, his grandmother with moving acceptance, and his sister with fear.   In fact she was pregnant at the time and would not come near Michael, fearing the disease would transfer to her unborn child.

The actors:
Aidan Quinn took on the role of Michael Pierson which, at the time, must have been a difficult decision.   He handled the role with dignity, showing respect for the message the film was trying to convey.   His partner, Peter Hilton, was played by D. W. Moffett, who also took a risk and performed well.

Of course the show stealer was John Glover as Victor DiMato, a patient with AIDS that befriended Michael in the hospital.  Joined in the cast were Gena Rowlands as the mother, Ben Gazzara as the father, Sylvia Sidney as the grandmother and Bill Paxton.

I thought all did a good job, considering this was unexplored territory, and seemed to hold true to the characters they generally played in other movies.

DVD extras:
~Commentary w/Aidan Quinn, Ron Cowen & Daniel Lipman.
~30 minute documentary: Living with Aids, which follows 21-year old Todd Coleman as he struggles through the final year of his life.   I found it much better than the feature film truthfully because it seemed more genuine.   It was worth getting the movie just to see this documentary addition.

Overall impression:
I've known a few people that have died from AIDS.   Their life wasn't nearly as neat and tidy as it appeared in this movie.  That isn't to say this was a bad movie because it wasn't.   For one thing, it was the first of its kind, for another it was made for television.   Some of the more powerful scenes that could been shown simply couldn't because of censor restraints and not having the overall basic knowledge of the disease.

Even today some people react the same way as Michael's sister did in this film.   Basic fear and ignorance keeps them away, even from a loved one.   The movie made every attempt to try to address the haze surrounding AIDS, trying to show people how to be more accepting and tried to educate them with information.  

Of course with the later releases of films like And The Band Played On and Philadelphia, we learn more about this devastating illness and the effects on families and population in general.   I've heard some blah-blah in the news from mucky-mucks that say AIDS has been conquered.   Yeah, right.  CDC stats say that over a million in the US alone are living with AIDS, almost a million have died.  Almost 50,000 children suffer from the disease currently.   The overall idea is as long as less people die each year than contract the disease, we have conquered it.

That all sounds real pretty and tied up with a fancy bow but until it affects someone directly the story won't change.   I picked that up from watching Living Proof where the pharmaceutical company wasn't willing to cough up the money for clinical trials until - uh oh - the CEO's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.   All of a sudden there was money overly available.  Snakes, all of them.

I admire Cowen & Lipman, as well as the actors and television censors, that took this project on and decided to put a face on a disease no one understood then, or now.  Hell, it even beat out Monday Night Football in the ratings.   It is an extremely ugly disease that still carries a shell of armor.   Kudos to them for attempting to break through the shell.

thanks,
Susi

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