Where to start? I must choose my words carefully as to not be misunderstood; as I'm sure I will be. As beautiful as Brokeback Mountain is, it is very slow moving and contains a deep, eye-opening message without an outer shell for a story. In other words, a lot happens in the film without anything really ever happening.
It has been touted by co-workers and friends and the media as the "gay cowboy movie." One personality mentioned there were two films opening in his town that weekend: "Fun with Dick and Jane," starring Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni and "Fun with Dick," starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. Although amusing, this completely misrepresents what Ang Lee's film is really about. It's really just like any other forbidden love story, but in this case its central characters are two men. It's not a queer-fest or the "gay cowboy movie" as it has been laughingly referred to as.
Let me say these three things: it was beautifully shot and tremendously directed. The settings are gorgeous and the panorama of the Wyoming country-side is breathtaking and captured strategically. I loved the way each of the three decades in which Brokeback Mountain takes place were captured competently. It is also extremely well acted; especially by Heath Ledger who will most certainly garner an Oscar nomination for the best performance of his career. Jake Gyllenhaal was great too in a supporting role. Third, the script was well written with some great pieces of dialogue. But...
I'm going to go against the grain and every other critic out there who thinks this is the greatest film of the year. Stylistically, I couldn't and wouldn't disagree. As far as trying to introduce something to the American public they haven't seen before (i.e. groundbreaking) I would also agree that it is great. However, for me, these things do not make a great film. I really need something to grab my attention and shake me into the story for me to really enjoy it. And unfortunately, nothing like this ever happened for me during the course of the movie. Nothing really intense or exciting happens.
So the film culminates around this forbidden love. So what? We watch these two men get older and raise seperate families and every once in a while meet up on the mountain to rekindle their passion for one another. That's really it. Again, some well written and acted out dialogue with an amazing backdrop, but no story. I understand that the story is supposed to be the depth of the characters and their inner turmoils, and there is plenty of that, but just personally, I need more in a movie.
Now let me be clear, my feelings about this movie have nothing to do with the fact that the characters are gay. If that was my beef, I would never have gone to the film in the first place. I never once felt really uncomfortable in my seat (because of the sexuality) or disgusted. I'm mature enough to handle it. I think this film would've been just as...I hesitate to say boring but, slow had it been about a black man and a white woman for example, or some other "forbidden love" in the country-western world of the 1960's and 70's.
I will admit this however: at the risk of again being misunderstood, sounding homophobic and digging myself a hole I will never be able to climb out of, I think it's very possible that part of the reason I didn't "get" the greatness of the film is precisely because I am straight, and therefore maybe unable to empathize with the emotional component of the characters. That's not homophobia or closed-mindedness, it's just who I am. Which ironically enough, is exactly what this film is trying to teach us.
To give this film a thumbs down would be ludicrous. It is far too well-directed, acted and scripted. But I can't in good conscience give it a thumbs-up when I simply did not enjoy myself in the theater. Granted, I have the mother of all colds clouding my head and judgement, but it was just too slow for me and it needed something to make it truly great in my mind. And I'm not going to sit here and say I enjoyed it just to be politically correct. I respect those that liked it, I do see the greatness in the actual film-making, but the story was just too lacking of any real depth or intensity to cature my interest. Let the hate email flood in now. I can take it.