Brokeback Mountain

Unlike just about every movie featured on this site, Brokeback Mountain is not atrocious, mediocre, or just plain idiotic. It is, however, beautiful, powerful, and a film worth seeing by anyone in search of a fantastic experience in a theater. After seeing the careful thought and attention director Ang Lee put into his story about two lovers and their struggle to maintain any semblance of a relationship, I have changed this site’s mission statement in dedication to his work. From now on I will make a steady effort to not only highlight cinema’s worst but also movies I actually enjoy, since life is too darn short to constantly gripe about what’s wrong in the world. Granted, Brokeback Mountain is in many ways a tragedy, but it has inspired me to be a more open and enthusiastic writer. I know the ability is mine to not only trash but applaud, and so this ability will be exercised often in the future.

I won’t spend any time expounding the controversy surrounding this film, since in my mind there is none to discuss. Anything scandalous about Brokeback has simply been generated by those who refuse to see it out of principle, and the film itself is nothing more than a love story with circumstances not seen in a major release in quite some time.

 Ang Lee’s story is simply told, using ample visuals and sparse dialogue to show the journey of two men, Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar. The entire opening stretch, beginning with Jack and Ennis being hired to watch sheep on the lush and also dangerous title mountain and lasting an entire summer, is often just too beautiful for adjectives to describe. Hundreds of sheep bobbing and flowing over hillsides, misty sunsets, and vast tree expanses had me marveling, and the continuous montage of Jack and Ennis becoming closer is clear and moving without words.

There isn’t a cliché bone in this movie’s body, and never once did I feel the growing affection between the two men was contrived. Heath Ledger plays Ennis with a ridged jaw and mumbled train of thought, and Jack Gyllenhaal brings an appealingly cocky sensibility to Jack. Together they are a reluctantly friendly pair until a rough and almost violent sexual encounter, followed by a hushed conversation where the two agree to keep the incident between them. The shame doesn’t last long, and soon aggression stemming from denial melts into genuine affection. These are obviously hard scenes to sell whether you’re a male or female performer, but Ledger and Gyllenhaal are quite simply amazing. Their roles were inhabited without hesitancy.

 The movie opens up after this first summer comes to an abrupt end, introducing us to the women who ultimately share the lives of these men. Michelle Williams is great as Alma, who marries Ennis but eventually finds herself a third wheel to her husband’s fishing buddy. Brokeback does a very good job of being fair when it comes to Alma being left behind while the boys have fun. I felt a true sense of resentment toward these men, since Ennis comes off as being extremely selfish for dropping his duties as a husband and father. This is a complicated story, to be sure, and there is not a one character that has a stronger case than another.

Anne Hathaway was a complete surprise as Jack’s wife Lureen, since like Ledger her career has mostly been made up of mainstream titles like The Princess Diaries. She shows her chops to great effect here, making her entrance as a wild spirit and eventually adopting a cold and business-like attitude as time passes throughout the film. This was something else I enjoyed about the film; mainly the cast and Lee’s ability to make the passage of time seem not only gradual but completely realistic. No one suddenly walks on camera sporting receding hairlines or age lines, but small touches such as differing hairstyles and body shapes subtly made the changes apparent.Of course, this is a movie I fully expected to make me cry at some point, and it succeeded admirably. If your heart goes out toward romance and the pain it can bring, then I’m certain you’ll be blubbering as well. Brokeback Mountain is an honest story and visually beautiful to boot, so I don’t see why it shouldn’t receive an armload of awards come the season. And if it doesn’t, who cares? All I know is I didn’t want to see this film end, and that’s a rare and wonderful feeling.

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