Saturday, December 31, 2005

Brokeback Mountain

Tolkien Boy commented last night that he was thinking of writing a review of Brokeback Mountain, but concluded that if you're the type of person who's interested in seeing gay cowboy movies then you'll probably see it regardless of what he says, and if you're the type of person who isn't interested in seeing gay cowboy movies then you'll probably not see it regardless of what he says. Having said that, I'm going to review Brokeback Mountain. (Also keep in mind, I'm by no means an experienced or even decent film reviewer.)

Brokeback Mountain is a faithful adaptation of an Annie Proulx short story about Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), who meet working in Wyoming as young sheepherders in 1963. Over the course of the summer spent alone on Brokeback Mountain, the two men develop a close friendship and one night, in a moment of passion, end up having sex. Each insists that he "ain't no queer," that this is a one-time thing. They part at the end of the summer and each of them gets married and has kids. Over the next twenty years they see each other infrequently, telling their wives that they're going on fishing trips while continuing their love affair. Only when it's too late to do anything about it do they realize that their relationship is more than a friendship, more even than a series of sexual encounters. In the end, because they've chosen neither their wives nor each other, they succeed only in hurting everyone involved.

Yes, I just told you the whole plot, but it's not the sort of movie you watch because you're in suspense about what happens next. You watch it because Ang Lee directed it, because of the beautiful Wyoming scenery (never thought I'd say those words together), and because each of the actors plays his part phenomenally--Heath Ledger as the silent, brooding rancher and Jake Gyllenhal as the high-energy rodeo cowboy. The supporting actors, Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams, also do a great job. As I said above, the adaptation is very faithful to the source; the fact that it's a short story makes it easier to turn into a feature film without cutting out any elements of the original. The only changes I noticed were minor additions that, in my opinion, improved on the story. The character of Ennis Del Mar's daughter, for example, is developed much more than in the short story, and she adds an element of hope to an otherwise tragic story.

As a side note, be aware that if you're watching the movie in Utah, and I presume pretty much anywhere else, the audience is going to react strangely because they don't know how to deal with a gay movie that is neither camp nor porn. At an intensely tragic moment in the film when Alma Del Mar sees her husband making out with Jack Twist, the whole theater was rolling with laughter.

In case you're interested, there's a hugely amusing (though somewhat crude) review at .


Cricket said...

I can't believe the audience laughed at that part! I hope that is was nervous tension exploding in laughter. That was the first scene that made me tear up. Being in my own MOM, and being the wife (dang, I gave my identity away!) I could feel her pain and confusion and I hurt for her being at the begining of her journey, knowing what was ahead for her.

I'm thrilled that you got to see it so soon! So now I need to know your feelings on some things. I am still turning alot over in head about this movie and with irony of the timing of your "theory" post and all of it's comments!

I'll attempt to get my head together and bang it out later this evening.

Th. said...


It was actually filmed in...Canada!

B.G. Christensen said...

Oh. Make that "the beautiful Canada scenery."

Christian said...

Umm. There's not too much for me to say, since I pretty much agree with you on your comments about the movie here.

I will say that I'm unimpressed with Ledger and Gyllenhall. Personally, I think Michelle Williams stole this movie from under their feet. She did far more with her facial expressions than Heath did with his mumbling. She better come away with an Oscar.

What I find interesting was that the audience I saw it with also laughed at that same moment. And I saw it at a private screening with a very predominantly gay audience. Now, some of the people I was with didn't notice the laughing (and you have to call it laughing because it certainly wasn't nervous twittering), so I might have only been atuned to it because you had mentioned it here. But still. It caused me to stop and think about why they laughed.

This is what I've decided. This has been billed as Hollywood's Gay Cowboy Movie. This is a grossly inaccurate label. It's not Hollywood, even though it has some high-profile actors. Notice the sweeping landscapes, the sparse dialogue, the absence of a score, the impeccable use of silence. It's an indie film. This isn't to say I wouldn't mind if Hollywood did films like this, but Hollywood just doesn't generally see the point. And the film's a tragedy. I think audiences just weren't prepared for this film, and so they had inappropriate responses to some of the scenes.

That's my take.