Jake Gyllenhaal received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain.
Watching the film again I must say I was quite disappointed by Gyllenhaal's performance as Jack Twist early in the film when Jack and Ennis first are given their job shepherding. Early on when Jack is rather aggressively trying to pursue a relationship with Ennis, while Ennis is rather confused about it. Gyllenhaal almost tries to be too stoic in the role as Jack early on. He wants to make him a man who is all about what lies beneath, but really is conveying of what lies beneath is a bit lacking early on. Frankly for these early scenes Ledger consistently stays far more interesting and effective than Gyllenhaal who seems a little confused on how to portray his character at first.
I say confused because in between his moments of stoicism he throws in some moments of rather wild extroversion. This could be taken as a more wild of a man on the inside of stoicism, but it never plays this way. There is a most certainly a disconnect in these moments and Gyllenhaal really does not meld them together in an effective fashion. He does not really find exactly the way he should portray Jack, he tries several different ways to try to find his way for Jack but none of them really work here. Also except for a few longing looks Gyllenhaal frankly could have done much more to really show that to Jack that his relationship with Ennis must happen, but Gyllenhaal does not find the right way to get it across.
After these shaky early scenes, actually more of the early half of the picture Gyllenhaal finds his ways with Jack Twist after Jack has gotten married himself into to a life that he hates. Gyllenhaal does become effective when he brings out the bitterness in Jack over his life. In his married life scenes Gyllenhaal effectively conveys the facade his character puts on at all times. Gyllenhaal though shows that really Jack is not the best at it showing a constant anger that is always clearly underneath from his frustrations over never getting what he really wants. Gyllenhaal always shows a constant pain within Jack during these scenes even when the occasion should be pleasant there is always an unpleasantness in Jack.
The pivotal moments of his performance are with Heath Ledger though. There later scenes are very well handled by both actors as they find the right sort of dynamic between the two. Although these scenes certainly can be categorized as romantic they are defined as the problems between the two as much as the love between them. With Ennis more of confused by the whole matter, and completely unsure of what to do exactly, where as Gyllenhaal shows a passion in Jack that desperately wants them to be together always, and with that there is always a bitterness in Gyllenhaal portrayal over just the pain Jack feels whenever he is not with Ennis frankly.
The path of his character really is a negative one. Where Ledger's Ennis moves further and further to try to understand the relationship all Jack does is become increasingly tired, and almost hate filled over not getting what he wants. Gyllenhaal is quite strong in showing this path of Jack's as he slowly moves along it through almost the entire film. Gyllenhaal shows it something that takes time but does make Jack into far less of a man than his former self, into a brooding and almost cold man in some regards. This transformation is what really makes his performance. This is not a perfect performance by any means it is far too shaky early on, but Gyllenhaal does create a compelling character in the end.