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Movie Review: “Brokeback Mountain”

Based on the E. Annie Proulx story and beautifully directed by Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain concerns a forbidden and secretive relationship between two cowboys and their lives over the ensuing 20 years.

Brokeback Mountain accomplishes what few movies even set out to do now days. It moves you. It makes you feel. And most importantly that feeling stays with you. Brokeback Mountain is a disturbing movie and it is this sense of disturbance that swirls around in our head and just sits there. It makes you think and it tugs at emotions that you wish would be allowed to lay dormant. And it makes you sad.

Why is this movie so disturbing? It could be that it reminds us that homosexuality is the last of the socially acceptable forms of discrimination and prejudice. It could be the bravioso performance by Heath Ledger as a man whose fear and repression forces him to give up any chances he may have had for a contented and fulfilling life. I think for the most part the reason this movie stays with you for so long is it is about chances missed. It is about not reaching out and grabbing a hold of life and shaking it and screaming ‘I am going to live my life …I am going to be happy and I’ll beat down any son-of-a-bitch who denies me that right.’

Who here has not let chances slip by? And who among us has not been disturbed by doing so?

It is summer of 1963 when Jack Twist, a rodeo cowboy, (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar, a Wyoming Ranch hand, (Heath Ledger) meet in Signal, Wyo. The two cowboys are hired by a rancher named Joe Aguirre (Randy Quaid) to herd his sheep up on Brokeback Mountain for the summer.

And this is a very important part of the movie. Understanding the world in which we find these two men. Jack and Ennis live in a world far removed from any urban center. They live in a world so small that it comes without benefit of any type of social awareness. These men live in a different world and time. They live in a world that has never heard the term gay rights, gay love or homosexuality. When the boys first meet, they are living in Wyoming, 1963. This is when “the thing” first grabs hold of them. This “love that dare not speak its name”. In one scene Ennis says to Jack “Bottom line is… we’re around each other an’… this thing, it grabs hold of us again… at the wrong place… at the wrong time… and we’re dead.” This too is important, these men do not even have a word for what is happening to them. It is not about labels it is too natural, too innocent for all of that nonsense.

The movie then follows the two men throughout a 20-year relationship that is full of ecstasy and love and fear and doubt but it is both love and fear that compete for top honors.

As I mentioned before, Heath Ledger turns in a performance worthy of an Oscar nod. Although I have to admit his mumbling took a little getting used to and reminded me a bit of Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade.

Jake Gyllenhaal, with those gorgeous lips, brings much of the sexy steaminess to the movie but also brings a sense of knowledge to the part. You have the feeling that Jack may have been in the woodshed with a few cowboys in his time.

The cast is helped along with a wonderful performance by Michelle Williams (Heath Ledger’s real life wife) as Alma Del Mar whose marriage falls apart in such a way that it leaves her completely unprepared as how to confront the problem.

The cast is not helped along by Anne Hathaway as Lureen Newsome, Jack Twist’s wife, who plays her character in a Tammy Wynette caricature that seems out of place and more worthy of a made for TV movie of the week.

Now for those of you that think you are going to go see a cowboy humpin’ movie. Let me disappoint you. There is one sex scene but it takes place with their clothes on. Understandable. It’s cold up in those mountains. In fact, and I guess it may seem odd to some, but there are more man-woman sex scenes than man-man. You won’t even get to see any male nude scenes at all save for a long shot of our heroes jumping into a river. Very quickly. That is fine. This movie is not about any of that.

If you haven’t done so yet, please go see this movie. In fact, take everyone you know to go see this movie.

It’s not that they should see this movie…they need to.

Brokeback Mountain: My score 8/10

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