Warning: Spoiler to follow.
I knew what to expect before I saw this movie, having read many reviews and Annie Proulx’s short story. But I took for granted how a well-done book-turned-movie can fill in blanks for me like show what a big Wyoming sky looks like as well as the subtle difference between the look of genuine happiness and one of simple contentment. It’s the latter that pervades the film.
You want the two characters to just stop kidding themselves…and their wives and their children and risk it all for love. But instead their fears and their need to “do the right thing” paralyze them until you see them deteriorate from vibrant and promising to empty and unfulfilled old men. Couldn’t help but think, very Thorn Birds, heh. Give up the priesthood, dammit!
The only thing I didn’t like was Anne Hathaway as Jack Twist’s wife, but that’s just because she bugs. Her face is overly sweet, her eyes too doelike. And it was funny when they “tried” to make her look 20 years older. She just got blonder but her big doe eyes still betrayed her youth. I just couldn’t suspend disbelief when it came to her. Ang Lee did say, “I decided to take a risk and go with a younger cast. It’s a 20-year story, and you cannot recreate youth that easily.” But with Anne Hathaway, it was a bit distracting.
And the gay sex scenes between two big Hollywood actors? Nothing that would make a straight guy squirm. Well, not too much. I mean, it’s definitely not something mainstream society is used to seeing on the big screen but I couldn’t help but wonder how it would play in “America’s Heartland.”
In any case, director Ang Lee and screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana transform Annie Proulx’s words into a stunningly shot and beautifully told love story that should win some kind of award.
Of course, my friends and I walked out of the theater utterly depressed, crying, “I wanted a happy ending!” But secretly we knew it couldn’t end any other way. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have profoundly affected us the way it did.