TVLine's Performer of the Week: Matt Bomer

Matt Bomer The Normal Heart

A weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Matt Bomer

THE SHOW | The Normal Heart

THE AIRDATE | May 25, 2014

THE PERFORMANCE | It’s a time-honored tradition: A ridiculously gorgeous performer (think Charlize Theron in Monster or, more recently, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club) throws ego to the wind, undergoes a dramatic physical transformation and scores shiny hardware come awards season.

But while White Collar‘s ridiculously gorgeous Matt Bomer lost an astonishing 40 pounds to play Felix Turner, a New York Times reporter who succumbs to AIDS in the earliest days of the epidemic, his most affecting moments were hardly dependent on achieving a bone-thin physique or submitting to the magic of the film’s make-up artists.

In fact, some of Bomer’s strongest work in The Normal Heart came when Felix was in full possession of his physical beauty.

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Take, for example, the scene in which Bomer’s Felix finally divulged a life-changing secret to the indignant, outspoken writer Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo), with whom he’d fallen in love. It began as a tender, tentative foray into the subject of the health crisis affecting New York’s gay male population: “If I had it, would you leave me?” asked Ned. “I don’t know. Would you, if I did?” Felix replied gently, Bomer’s eyes suddenly betraying a palpable sense of dread.

But after a heated argument over Ned’s need to fight against everything (and everyone) trying to render him powerless in life, Felix quietly revealed the small purple lesion on his bare foot — “It keeps getting bigger and bigger, and doesn’t go away” — and Bomer unforgettably unveiled the mixture of terror, shame and heartbreak that accompanied the telltale sign of Karposi’s sarcoma. The moment was a gut-wrenching, multiple-Kleenex reminder of the disease’s tragic human toll.

In a later scene, an AIDS-ravaged Felix took a subway ride, lesions fully visible on his face, and Bomer’s remarkable eyes gave us a window into a character navigating the unimaginable horror of accepting a new reality as one of society’s outcasts. Fighting for his dignity, avoiding the pitying glance of a fellow passenger, Felix then glimpsed his future — another AIDS-afflicted passenger whose face morphed into that of a ghost-white corpse amidst the train’s flashing bursts of light and darkness. Bomer played the scene with the necessary notes of fear and anxiety, but also with a subtle, stubborn determination that furthered the film’s narrative — and tapped into the audience’s own raw emotions — in a way mere dialogue never could.

Yes, Bomer’s a beautiful man — as the final season of White Collar and the inevitable Magic Mike sequel will remind us — but he’s also capable of astonishing us with his internal gifts, too. Hopefully, Emmy voters will remember that fact when their Emmy ballot arrives next month.

HONORABLE MENTION | In seven seasons as Mad Men‘s Bertram Cooper, Robert Morse lent both gravitas and quirk to the fictional ad firm that bore his character’s name. Whether he was eschewing shoes (those socks!) or quietly offering a voice of reason during a partner’s meeting, Morse often played Bert like a weary sentinel biding his time until the end of his duty. And when that time came in Sunday’s midseason finale, Broadway vet Morse capped his SC&P days with a sublime performance of “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” complete with a sock-footed dance number. It makes sense to mark Mad Men‘s final season with the final day of one of the agency’s founding fathers, but we’ll miss you all the same, Bert.

Which performances rocked your TV set this week? Sound off below and let us know!

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52 Comments
  1. April says:

    Everyone in The Normal Heart was amazing, but it was Jim Parsons who made me bawl.

    • Jan says:

      Me, too. Basically, I think it was the writing. His pulling and saving the rolodex card for each friend who died rang so true to me. I was never able to cross out/erase anyone from my telephone book. Parsons just played that part so beautifully.

      • Angela says:

        I know that feeling, too. I also liked it when Parsons’ character had his sassy moments, too-he was able to be both serious and humorous, depending on the situation.
        Matt was indeed fantastic, too, though. It’s a tough call for me-everyone in that film did a superb job.

        • April says:

          The eulogy he gave… I was telling my sister about it and started tearing up thinking about it.

          • Angela says:

            Agreed. Talking about all the talent taken as a result of this horror…he sounded so frustrated, so angry, so helpless. It was a very powerful speech.

  2. Kat says:

    Well deserved =) I think Matt was awesome, but I have to say: Everyone in this show was, also Mark Ruffalo and Jim Parsons and Jonathan Groff and Taylor Kitsch. All of them <3

  3. Mel says:

    Great pick, although I’d be hard-pressed to choose between Bomer and Mark Ruffalo. All the performances in this production of The Normal Heart were superb, especially Bomer, Ruffalo and Jim Parsons, but Matt Bomer truly touched my heart. Kudos to all the actors.

  4. Terez says:

    Bomer should clear his mantel, it will be full of awards this year. His performance trumped all. If it had been a theatrical release, he’d get an Academy nom. Brava!

  5. Thank you for this. I agree that Matt’s pre-weight loss scenes were as good (masterful, tbh, if we’re talking acting skills) as those after (although, naturally, the ones after were heartbreaking). I absolutely LOVED the naturalness he brought to the healthy Felix, so flirty and vulnerable. I’m a fan of Matt’s, so expected good things, but he astounded even me in the power and skill of his performance in this movie. I will respectfully disagree with other posters who suggest that anyone else was as good in this movie. I will just have to hope that the Emmy voters come to the same conclusion I did, and also that this performance ensures he gets many other opportunities to show us his amazing talent.

  6. Ace says:

    I loved the film and loved how great Matt, Jim, and Taylor were (as Mark’s character was a bit annoying for me).

    Also, it should be “when *their* Emmy ballots arrive.”

  7. NIna says:

    While the entire ensemble gave incredible performances, it was Taylor Kitsch’s shower breakdown, and the flashback of the indignity Albert had to suffer during and following his death that finally broke me.

    • CC says:

      Completely agree. I kind of prepared myself for Felix but Bruce’s breakdown over the fear of Albert dying and ultimately relaying that horrible treatment his body received was what sent me over the edge. I lost it when he says “MY Albert” and you see the body in a garbage bag. Taylor Kitsch has acting chops, hopefully he is recognized as well as Bomer. Neither are just pretty faces.

      • Jan says:

        Yes, that scene was a killer! I kept wondering if young folks watching would realize how very true scenes like this were.

    • Margaret says:

      The entire movie was emotional, but that scene & the end totally gutted me. Taylor Kitsch went for it, 100% and I was crying like a baby but totally impressed by him. Need to give props to Finn Wittrock (Albert), he did some amazing work as well. The ending, with Matt & Mark, was one of the most beautiful expressions of love in a movie I’ve ever seen.

  8. DarkDefender says:

    Great choice this week, but I’d humbly point out that Farrah Fawcett started the trend when she did The Burning Bed in 1984.

  9. Sam says:

    Would have picked Ruffalo, Parsons, and Mantello over Bomer easily. He remains as overrated as ever.

    • That’s just unnecessary and rude. You may personally have preferred the other actors in this, but there’s no need to denegrate a great performance by Matt in your comment. And Matt is hardly “overrated”; if anything, he’s been consistently underrated, being dismissed by some as just a pretty face on a USA show. He’s now demonstrated once and for all that is not the case. If you personally don’t like his acting, that’s your prerogative, but the overwhelming number of critics rated it very highly in this. To try and dismiss it as “overrated” is just being contrary.

    • Terez says:

      LOL, so says one of Matt’s competing actor’s PR hacks. I’ve never seen such unanimous praise for an actor in every review for a film. Nice try, but a fail on your part dude.

    • Curlybean says:

      I disagree completely about Matt Bomer being overrated. He is truly an amazing actor who had the ability to make you care for whatever character he is portraying. He is also a truly genuine person.

      Everyone in this movie did a phenomenal job, but Matt was a definite standout, both before and after his dramatic physical change. I hope this opens up wonderful opportunities for him.

    • Sam everybody is entitled to an opinion even if it wrong

  10. Riana says:

    I thought Katie Stevens gave a great performance on Faking It in a single scene where she switched from confusion to doubt to hurt .

  11. Patrick Maloney says:

    Matt Bomer was the best actor in the entire movie

  12. katedfw says:

    Robert Morse has the highlight of the week for me. He was a strong voice without ever raising his voice and had some of the best one-liners in the show. He had the greatest send-off for a character that I can ever remember!

    Haven’t seen Normal Heart yet (no HBO) but hope to see it soon!

  13. Tim says:

    Alfred Molina was really good too

  14. Skiwitch says:

    Signed up for HBO just to see this, because I am an avid Matt Bomer fan, I agree he was absolutely great and certainly hope he is recognized for this performance. However, I’d have to agree that Mark Ruffalo, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons, and Joe Mantello were great as well. I am pulling for Matt because I want to see him have opportunities for more work since White Collar is ending, but we can’t minimize the performances of the others.

  15. Karine says:

    Matt was beautiful in the Normal Heart. He delivered a impressive and gut wrenching performance! The whole cast was absolutely fantastic. Loved loved it

  16. Widge says:

    I thought everyone in The Normal Heat was great, but Danielle Ferland’s piece about missing her friend is what made me cry!

  17. Jeannette says:

    Actors with exceptionally good looks often don’t even get the roles that allow them to show the depth of their skills. I was heartened to see that Matt Bomer, who is much much more than just a “pretty face” was in a role that allowed him to really show off his chops. I too thought the whole cast was great and Mark Ruffalo did an incredible job because his character (in real life and as portrayed) was NOT an easy person to embrace…although I am thrilled that our world has men like Larry Kramer in it and thrilled he lived to see this movie made and with such a great cast.

    At first I thought Memorial Day was an odd time to first air this given people being away, etc. but then it clicked: There’s more than the military to honor on memorial day. I have clearly forgotten many things about that period in the 80s. It was so painful to be reminded of how these men were treated (I think I went thru half a box of tissues watching the mom and the other character take her son out of the hospital. The indignities gays and lesbians have been subjected to over the years certainly reached horrific places in the early days of AIDS.

    I hope people never forget that you can never stop working to educate and help folks, whether for AIDS or other diseases that still carry some sort of stigmata in general society.

    Your heart breaks for all the pain so many people went thru and still do. Here and around the world. AIDS is NOT gone and people still need our love, respect and help.

    Having top actors helps get people to watch and hopefully to feel, think and act.

    Tough movie to watch but one every adult should watch at some point.

    It’s interesting to see how different polio, as the Julia Roberts’ doctor points, which is also a virus, was treated in healthcare versus AIDS. Kudos to Larry Kramer for calling a spade a spade and calling out the government, local, state and national, even though it cost him friendships, work and more. SOMEBODY has to get people to listen and no, honey does not get more flies in this kind of scenario as we have learned.

    • Angela says:

      Fantastic post.
      Yeah, all the statistics at the end, the info about the lack of proper funding to help those in the early days of this crisis especially, was heartbreaking to read. And infuriating. I don’t know how anyone who brushed off this epidemic simply because of the specific group of people it was affecting could, or still can, even try and sleep at night. I hope karma comes back to give them all a swift kick where it counts. Absolutely despicable.

  18. abz says:

    Definitely well-deserved. His performance was perfection and very heart-breaking. The entire cast was phenomenal. I also got really emotional at the scene where Emma (Julia Roberts) tried to get funding in the lecture hall. That scene was so sad, but amazingly acted. She was so great in it. Really made you feel the pain and desperation of the situation.
    I hope Matt gets an Emmy nomination. He really deserves it. I was afraid after he took the role in Magic Mike, he’d be pushed into the B-list actors world and not get to do any roles worth his talent, but I’m so glad he got this opportunity. It definitely shows his talents and how he is destined for many more great performances.

  19. rainey13 says:

    Thank you, TVLine! Matt Bomer is, indeed, so much more than just a pretty (gorgeous) face. While he certainly made me cry at several points in The Normal Heart, he also made me smile, and he let me see that unconditional love that was so beautiful between Felix and Ned. A bravura performance, and hopefully the start of even bigger and better things for Matt.

  20. Lo says:

    It’s actually Kaposi’s sarcoma, no R in the name.

  21. kirads09 says:

    My performer otw is Allison Tolman FX Fargo. There wss nothing as heart breaking or gut wrenching to me as that agonized look on Molly’s face at the end of Barber ep. To be able to convey so much with an expression – wow She floored me this week.

  22. Carole says:

    I have been following Matt since his early soap opera days. This performance was out of the box, amazing. I love White Collar, but this gave him a notch on another level.

  23. DanielleZ says:

    Matt Bomer did a great job in The Normal Heart. Your recognizing him as Performer of the Week is spot on. His is a well deserved performance. Mark Ruffalo, Jim Parsons, and Julia Roberts were among the fine performances in the movie. Robert Morse was excellent in the Mad Men finale. He will be missed and what a great send off. Waterloo was a great episode. Can’t wait until Mad Men returns next year.

  24. Candy says:

    Watching this movie, I thought back to the 70’s when I personally heard of this horrifying disease. I barely knew there were gay men and women, much less a disease that seemed to “target them. No one knew what the hell this god-forsaken disease was, where it had come from and how it seemed to just pop up out of the blue! The news was exaggerating the symptoms, as if they could have been any more horrifying, the CDC had no clue, and little Ryan was a pariah and was ostrasized by entire communities and much of the world, even though it was obvious it was no longer a gay man’s disease. Remember young Ryan was in elementary school when it began for him. He was a child! I can remember then, even at the age of an older teen, it would feel like I actually knew some of these souls who lost their battles with AIDS, and when one would die, I’d hide in my bathroom and cry real tears for them and their loved ones, wondering how on earth it could happen the way it did. We were loose in the 70’s and had few cares about our health, but when we’d hear these terrible stories, we’d grieve for all concerned and tell each other we must be very careful, that we can’t touch a door that an HIV infected person had just touched, and whatever you do, don’t go home with strangers! If I prayed, I’d pray for all who have ever had to confront such a fearsome foe as HIV or AIDS. Since I do not pray, suffice it to say that I still regret the fear mongers who spreads ridiculous notions in those early years, and hope that people are much more educated now so the true demon of a disease may be slain!

  25. nikki says:

    Matt Bomer is great but Taylor Kitsch is pleasant surprise. He has come a long way from Tim Riggins.

  26. Tracy says:

    All of the actors were excellent and any one of them could have been selected. For me though Taylor Kitch stood out.

  27. kd86953 says:

    So deserved. Matt Bomer was a revelation and watching the transformation onscreen was mind-numbing. Jim Parsons’ eulogy really really really hit me hard: a generation of playwrights and actors and dancers just…gone. I thought Taylor Kitsch (whom I’ve ever seen before) was fantastic –the bit with Albert on the plane broke me in so many ways. And let’s not forget about Joe Mantello (who played Ned on Broadway in 2011). His breakdown scene was phenomenal. Just an all around fantastic movie with amazing acting all around. I hope they’re recognized at the SAG Awards as a cast because they truly deserve it.

  28. So happy for this article that recognizes how good Matt Bomer was in his healthy glory as Felix Turner in love. It’s easy to ignore those scenes because the later ones when he becomes ill are so damn extremely heart wrenching. He was the best part of the movie for me. Taylor Kitsch did great as the angry Bruce but his face is very limited in terms of nuance esp. with grief. Jim Parson excelled in his memorial speech but he really needs to get a little creative with his delivery becuase he sounded exactly like Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory. Joe Montello had probably the hardest scene with that extremely long drawn out monologue starting with subtle seething anger and ending with an extreme breakdown. He was perfect pitch and totally won me over. I hope I get to see more of him and Matt Bomer in many movies. They both got nominated for Emmys in supporting category, so well deserved, although I do hope Matt Bomer has an edge over him.

    Want to mention that Mark and Julia did a fantastic job with their roles as Ned Weeks and Emma Brookner. I also loved Alfred Molina as Ned’s brother.

  29. Melissa says:

    This was a wonderful movie and all the performances were simply amazing, but I kind of expected them from Ruffalo, Bomer, Parsons and Julia Roberts, Joe Mantello left me shaking after his scene in the GMHC’s office, however I was impressed by Taylor Kitsch, really impressed, haven’t seen him before Lone Survivor which is an action packed, testosterones filled, explosions and CGI movie (I never saw Frifay Night Lights) so I didn’t expected him to be this good… I love when actors are so fearless! Saying that, I think Matt Bomer gives so much heart in this performance, his chemestry with Mark is scintillating, and you fall in love with him as he falls in love with Ned, you feel his fear, his pain, his shame, it was a stunning performance and I hope he gets every award there is to get…

  30. sophiebowns says:

    It’s such an incredible film. Matt Bomer’s acting was stunning and I agree; his eyes told the story….

  31. In defense of myself an d Matt I am not anybody’s pr person but a fan of Matt and I was saying that Sam’s opinion was wrong I only wish the best for Matt