The buzz around this movie is incredible. It (the buzz) had been very strong around the gay community for well over a year, but ever since the first critics' reviews have been published and the film opened to very limited release in New York and Los Angeles, this buzz has been building to a crescendo.
"Magnificent," critics say. "Academy Award frontrunner," scream showbiz handicappers. "The first great love story of the millennium," say bloggers. So, what say I?
Image courtesy of the official website of Brokeback Mountain.
I never read the original short story, but from everything I've read it seems that the film has remained true to it. The story is very good, heartbreaking. It's about two simple men who experience this connection while spending a summer together up in the mountains, herding sheep. They then spend the rest of their lives understanding, struggling with, and working at maintaining that connection. All this occurs against a backdrop of a hostile society in which both are trapped, so much so that it takes them years to come to terms with the realization that they are in love.
The cinematography is awesome. The movie is set largely in Wyoming, but it was shot in Alberta. Every shot in the movie, from the mist-shrouded mountains, to the wide-open plains, and even the scenes around a small town choking with poverty, had this stark beauty to it. Perhaps even a bit too stark.
Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal played the leads. Michelle Williams (Dawson's Creek) and Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries) played their wives. All four turned in very good performances, especially Ledger and Williams.
Heaps of praise have been showered on this movie, but I have to be a bit contrarian here. As touching as the story was, as beautiful the cinematography was, and as good the performances were, I feel that the movie as a whole didn't quite gel. It was like I understood - intellectually - that this was an epic love story full of heartbreak, but I didn't feel it. There was no emotional connection and the movie didn't draw me in. Kind of analogous to knowing that a roller coaster ride is exciting although you've never been on one. I felt that the movie was too long, and that Ang Lee could have told the story with a tighter pace.
In short, Brokeback Mountain bored me.
Would I still recommend it, though? Absolutely! If only because everyone else on the planet seems to really like it (except for the rabid religious conservatives, but no rational person should really give any credence to what those stupid people say, anyway). So maybe I am wrong about it. Just go see it and judge for yourself.