Angels on HBO
December 2003 -- Mike Nichols' film version of Tony Kushner's extraordinary play Angels in America, now showing on HBO, includes one of the best depictions of nurses in feature film history. The movie is an imperfect but still dazzling exploration of faith, politics and sexuality in the United States soon after the start of the AIDS era. It features Nichols' usual assured direction and excellent work by Meryl Streep, Al Pacino and the other major actors, some of whom (as in the play) take multiple roles.
"Angels in America" rightly places nursing at the center of AIDS care. Emma Thompson, in addition to playing The Angel, turns in a somewhat odd but compelling performance as the autonomous, compassionate nurse Emily. However, the main nurse character is former drag queen Belize, masterfully played by Jeffrey Wright. Belize balances skill and determination, cynical wit and tough love, as he fights to keep his friends alive and sane. Nursing the nasty, AIDS-afflicted power broker Roy Cohn (Pacino) at a Manhattan hospital, he provides Cohn with a measure of comfort and dignity, even as they trade high grade invective across a chasm of mutual loathing. Belize is the moral center of the entire six-hour work, though it should be noted that "Angels in America" is far too sophisticated to suggest that nurses are "angels."
The Truth urges all nurses to watch this important and moving film.