So yea, this one was a little late coming, but its coming was inevitable. For me personally, buying into the media/word of mouth propaganda barrage surrounding the release of last year’s ” Brokeback Mountain ” was not worth a ten spot when I computed the cost/benefit analysis. The film was purportedly an immediate classic, and controversial, with performances so telling of the human condition and our inherent need for love — whatever the kind, whomever the denomination — that audiences everywhere had to see it. But after actually seeing it, the hoopla now subsided and the film ousted from pop culture’s short term memory only to be recalled for comic bits on late night shows, I feel that the hype was embellished, spurious and prefabricated well before the final edit.
” Brokeback Mountain “, as those who did and did not see the film well know, was directed by Ang Lee (“Hulk”) and tells a gay Shakespearean tragedy about two cowboys who find love while sheep herding one summer in the mountains of Wyoming . Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) went to Brokeback looking for work and wages without recognizing the portent in the fact that they were two handsome strangers completely alone in the wilderness with the only outlet for their incumbent sexual urges being sheep, horses, bears, or themselves.
With that said, I am brought to my biggest remonstrance against the importance of ” Brokeback Mountain “. What is so controversial and pressing about two men resorting to homosexual behavior in the absence of women? The only difference between a prison cell and a mountain range are trees and toilets. How about sailors, soldiers, truckers and priests…need I go back to the Romans, one of the most successful empires in history, who indulged in male to male trysts all the time.
I understand that Jack and Ennis were cowboys representing a demographic of masculinity and rodomontade but this is just a variation on a theme that our culture should be desensitized to after “Will and Grace”, “Philadelphia”, the millions of coming out stories shared on daytime TV, MTV, Greg Kinnear’s character in “As Good as it Gets”, etc. And controversy for 2006 should be around movies like “Trans-America” or books like Chuck Palahniuk’s “Invisible Monsters”; coming out that you are a different gender than what your physiology is indicative of, now that has some mass shock value.
After Jack and Ennis engage in some PG-13 sodomy and spoon through some cold Wyoming nights, they are forced to leave Brokeback due to an incoming front of hostile weather. Both ashamed and deeply enthralled, they part ways, leaving a next meeting up to chance. As is foreseeable, they marry and start families, only rekindling their sordid relationship after the din of domestic life halts to a monotonous drone. Clandestine meetings put off as fishing and hunting trips become frequent, wives become suspicious, and a powerful interpersonal drama is meant to unfold between the star crossed lovers.
A drama is meant to unfold, as in, it does not unfold as the writing and acting is wholly unconvincing and insipid. Gyllenhaal, as the fatalistic bottom, misses the mark and acts like a goofy heterosexual who is too horny for his own good. Ledger fairs somewhat better as the reserved, conservative working man with voice and diction comparable to Billy Bob Thornton in “Sling Blade,” but he doesn’t make up the difference. ” Brokeback Mountain ” is extremely sparse on dialogue, which renders the unfurling of love so limp and the tragedy such a punch line. The only genuinely moving scene where the boys show explicit vulnerability and desperate suffering is the “I wish I could quit you” scene, which has now been bastardized by just about everybody.
The few upsides of the film are the cinematography and the female co-stars. Ang Lee’s shots of the Wyoming wilderness are Renoir wet dreams; eternally beautiful and picturesque and could be seen as a bastion of serenity mocking the turmoil of Twist and Del Mar. Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway are equally pained, resentful and caring as the betrayed wives left behind by the recklessness of their husbands’ affair.
” Brokeback Mountain ” in no way lives up to all of the praise and awards it received from the obsequious Hollywood community. Taken simply as a movie, it is lackluster, tedious and ineffective, and is more a testament to the irreverence of the male id than a significant socio-cultural statement. Because the film is now something iconic, immortalized through cheap gibes and its Oscar upset, fans of current cinema are required to see it and judge for themselves, though I doubt in twenty years it will be remembered as a classic.
Ang Lee (director) / E. Annie Proulx (short story), Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana (screenplay)
CAST: Heath Ledger …. Ennis Del Mar
Jake Gyllenhaal …. Jack Twist
Randy Quaid …. Joe Aguirre
Anne Hathaway …. Lureen Newsome Twist
Michelle Williams …. Alma Del Mar