first the bad: i thought the music was trite and unimpressive. they did a bad job of aging ledger, so much so that you could see his makeup; these are not hallmarks of a best picture nominee. it’s a bit on the slow side and if i were to watch this at home, rather than in the theater, i would probably give the picture a full letter grade lower; but my tolerance in a theater is higher. in a way, this film was like an extended, gay version of the middle part that ruined “crouching tiger, hidden dragon.” the film was relatively low on character development. a typical anthony mann western has more character development in 15 minutes than this had in 2 hours and 15 minutes.
now the good: the cinematography was pretty good, though not great. gyllenhaal’s performance was a strength in part because his character was more sympathetic than ledger’s. ledger seemed less gay and more interested in the relationship as a sexual and mental release from his domestic life. early in the film it could be argued that ledger did it for one of the same reasons that men in prison turn to each other for sex – necessity rather than choice. later in the film it seems that he looks forward to their time together more as an escape than as a way of bonding with a partner. as a result i found myself sympathizing with gyllenhaal’s situation more. as the film winds down it tugs on our heart strings because of the guilt and regret ledger feels as a result of his relationship with gyllenhaal.
i didn’t think it was a great story and i didn’t think it was a bold statement. on a scale of 1-10 of impressiveness (1 being paris hilton’s intelligence, 10 being jerry rice’s football career) i’d say the film’s courage was about 6. there was a certain element of risk involved, but i think it was a calculated risk and a risk that was clearly justified. i’d have been more impressed if the film failed at the box office, or if this was released prior to beau travail, boys don’t cry, or philadelphia. really, though, the courage of a film doesn’t matter that much to me so even if it was released 20 years ago it wouldn’t have affected my grading that much. the real draw of the film is emotion behind the film. we feel for gyllenhaal and williams in an honest way and that really sustains the film. the social stuff and hype are mostly just undeserved background noise. this isn’t a great film, but it is a good one.Watched in theater