I disagree that it is "dated and quaint" in the way your friend seems to characterize it. It has a historical viewpoint that is extremely important, especially about the New West and Wyoming. That's what Proulx loves to write about. Of course, the environment, especially the interior environment and milieu, could be called "quaint," especially Ennis' wife, her characterization being the typical country girl. This film would obviously have been impossible to make when your friend suggests for the very reason suggested -- it would never have been acceptable until now. That says a lot about the quaintness of the minds of the general public even with the improvement of some acceptance in our society. It's not just acceptance that is necessary, however, but understanding. That's a huge mountain to climb. It's a wish dream to imagine it being made even in the sexually expanded Seventies. Instead, we got Al Pacino in "Crusing," which made the gay world dark and forbodding.
Your friend is still a bit nieve in believing that there are not many individuals who are not essentially gay (not living the gay lifestyle) who have sexual relationships with the same sex and remain on the fence their entire lives. The story rings true and especially in the environment and the milieu the characters are circumstantially set in.
It's not as easy as imagining some internal "gear shift" or experimentation that while enjoyable at the time is not accepted by the individual as a dominant lifestyle.
BTW, what did you friend think of Ang Lee's "The Wedding Banquet," another ground breaking gay film?
One film which wasn't great, but was truly groundbreaking, was Making Love
back in the early eighties. It dealt with some of the same issues that BBM does. Too bad that movie wasn't made as well as BBM was. I think the documentary effect the director tried to go for was to impart a sense of objectiveness in dealing with the subject. That said, I think that effect failed, and gave the movie a hokey feel.
Movies like BBM, and the whole movie industry in general for that matter, are being left behind by the innovation and truly groundbreaking work of cable television and shows like Queer as Folk
and The L Word
, the latter of which I think is a pretty good series.
About the "fence sitting," I think that's a criticism of bi-sexuality, that you either are or you aren't. Plainoldme expressed it pretty well.
I don't see my friend as often as I used to. I used to work with him, but now he lives mostly in Chicago, and only occasionally comes into town. I don't know if he's seen The Wedding Banquet