The hype was completely unjustified. Boring, to say the least. Somnolent, to say the worst*. Don't get me wrong. I think the movie was beautiful in parts. Two or three scenes will remain etched in my mind. But that's not enough.
At the end of the day, it's but a simple love story. Two men fall in love, find themselves in a situation where they can't be with/ marry each other, and thus, meet furtively. The premise has been repeated twenty thousand times before and the treatment too doesn't have anything to offer. Even Shakespeare did similar stories himself. Many Indian films deal with the same topic - Think back to Salman Khan and Chandni in Sanam Bewafa!! Yes, I know that the context is gay cowboys in Wyoming, but neither do we understand them better, nor do we have any insight into their peculiar situation by the end of the movie**. Take the movie and put it in a Bombay slum, or in a Delhi Page 3 circuit or in an African desert, and I am sure all the dialogues and scenes can be repeated verbatim. The movie just refuses to get into the specifics.
As far as the story is concerned, the first half was boring. I know thousands of sheep moving through pine-wood makes for good art, but does it make for riveting cinema? Almost nothing happened in the movie till Randy Quaid said, "you guys wasn't gettin' paid to leave the dogs babysittin' the sheep while you stem the rose." Good stuff that.
The best scene and the best line have been covered by many other writers, so I will not get into I wish I knew how to quit you. However, for me, the dialogue by the river was one of the standouts. Finally, Ennis (Heath Ledger) was speaking up after hearing jibes through the movie that he doesn't speak much.
The dialogue which was a huge letdown was when Ennis tells Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) about his childhood fears. That scene is pivotal, as it explains why Ennis won't stay with Jake. However, it's done in flashback (not the most effective technique as we know what to expect) and it is too simplistic. Father shows nine-year-old a gay man's corpse and the child fears this for the rest of his life. A little unbelievable for me.
Overall, the movie was full of similar very 'underwhelming' experiences.
As some of my friends pointed out - the last scene is good. Heath Ledger closes the cupboard door with the shirts hanging on it, and we see wheat fields through the window. Very beautiful. But, as with other scenes, there was much beauty and little emotion. I would rather watch Midnight Cowboy's bus ride again and again. Just check out Jon Voight's look in the photo.
*(It might be the other way round, as well)
**Neither does the movie offer anything new, nor is this the first gay mainstream movie (as someone told me). Even if you define mainstream as Oscar winner and starring A-list actors, I will point out Philadelphia.