First, let me say that there is much to commend in this film. It almost goes without saying that the direction was superb. Ang Lee beautifully portrays human passions and complicated emotional situations visually, a skill essential to conveying the intensity of the taciturn Ennis Del Mar (played to perfection by Heath Ledger). Lee also does a great job of bringing out the tensions (sexual and otherwise) in a number of awkward encounters. In addition, as writer Lydia Marcus put it in her review on Planeout, Lee “gets across the painful message of just how hard it was — and I’m sure still is for many — being gay in the middle of Americana.”
The shots of the Wyoming wilderness (well, actually Alberta) were beautiful and some of the performances, notably Ledger’s were outstanding. I believed that he had fallen for Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Jack Twist and that his character, aged with his makeup. Not only that; he did a great job of showing his character’s conflict as he recognized the reality and endurance of his feelings for Jack.
I wish I could say Jake showed a similar emotional shift. At times when he professed his love for Ennis, it seemed that he was like so many men we all have met, just using a romantic line in order to bed the object of his desire.
Playing Ennis’ wife, Michelle Williams also delivers an impressive performance. And the film had its tender moments. But, the pace of the film was glacial, particularly the opening third. Had I not known in advance this was a love story, I wouldn’t have figured out what was going on.
I was most convinced that Heath’s Ennis was in love when he was waiting for Jack’s arrival — or suffering from his absence. Indeed, it wasn’t until he was alone (after their first summer together) that I understood his emotion. That’s not to say I didn’t believe him when he was on screen together with Jake: I just didn’t believe the feeling was mutual. In his scenes together with Jake, he was more convincing as the film progressed.
While this film has been greatly hyped and while many have hoped that with an “A list” director and two “A list” stars, this film about gay love might have crossed over to straight audiences, outside of cities like New York and LA, I don’t think many straight people will go out to see it. I continue to hope that Hollywood will one day produce gay film that will appeal to straight audiences. But, despite its many good qualities, Brokeback Mountain is not that film.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com