{2jtab: Movie Review}

brokeback Mountain


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Tim's Movie Challenge Review

4 stars

I was in the theater set to watch the Viggo Mortensen crime drama A History of Violence back in the late summer of 2005. In that theater in a warm September afternoon I saw the first trailer for Brokeback Mountain. My initial reaction was "oh great, conservatives are going to have a field day with that one." The concept of two homosexual cowboys engaging in a forbidden romance is just the type of subject matter right wing extremists like Fred Phelps latch onto to preach the end of the world. In fact, the late Heath Ledger's funeral was picketed I believe by Phelps and his clan as a result of his Oscar nominated performance here.

Almost 8 years later, and several films about homosexuality in the mainstream, one has to reflect on Brokeback to see if it's still relevant in certain aspects. Many films about the subject have come and gone. Most with stellar performances and rave reviews like the Colin Firth headlined A Single Man. Today, the subject of homosexuality is topical, one that ignites controversy still as people are divided often as a result of their religious beliefs. Based on the short story by Annie Proulx (who also penned the once adapted Shipping News), Brokeback Mountain tells the story of two men set to protect sheep for the summer. One watches the sheep, only returning to eat to the campsite, while the other watches the campsite and prepares the meals. It seems rather daunting at first, and frustration grows in Jake Gyllenhaal's character Jack Twist. Twist seems more in tune with his own sexuality that his conflicted counterpart Ennis, wonderfully played by Ledger.

Once emotions are out in the open between the two on the mountain, it becomes obvious that Ennis is not 100% comfortable with admitting he's gay, stating once that "I ain't queer," a common statement heard by homosexuals who have felt repressed. Their forbidden love over the next 20 years (from 1963-1983) develops into occasional one night stand-ish trips for Twist to make from Texas to Wyoming. Both eventually get married, Twist to a rodeo businesswoman played by Anne Hatheway, and Ennis to the loving mother played by Michelle Williams, the latter of which discovers her husband's secrets early on and divorces him much later.

The rest of the film is a struggle for the two and it ends in complete heartbreak as you would expect, because very rarely are you going to find a film about homosexuals that leaves you with a positive, upbeat ending. I'm not trying to criticize any homosexuals, but a majority of the films out there about the subject are truthful, and end in pain. I refrained from watching Brokeback for the longest time, not out of fear or any "gay agenda" that Bill O'Reilly would have you believe. I refrained because I don't like romances, to be quite honest. It was only through a challenge that I was able to sit down and fully invest my time in the film to discover that it's actually quite beautiful.

Director Ang Lee films it with compassion, rather than judgement. At no point is he pointing the finger of blame at anyone for Ennis and Twist's actions, or any other outside interference. It's strictly a captivation, of love, of privacy, of heartache. Removing the homosexuality from it, at it's core it's a love story obviously, but one that any man or woman can relate to. Granted, the morality behind it is that both men need to lie to be happy which is questionable. It's not permissible at all in my opinion, regardless of their sexual preference, both cheat on their wives which I find immoral. Gay or straight, it's wrong to lie and cheat on your spouse. That aside, Brokeback set in motion the topic I feel to be breached by the public and received.

Today, the subject is touched on daily through media outlets and social networking sites like Facebook. Could Brokeback be the reason for it? It's possible. The growing acceptance of an individuals way of life has become something of a controversy when it really shouldn't be. Our president has openly stated his support of same-sex marriage, a message that went far and wide with the gay community, for good measure. So after 8 years is Brokeback still relevant? I think to some extent it is. It's powerful in it's depiction, even if there have been better films about the subject matter. Lee and the cast took major leaps in getting this film done, and could have performed career suicide. Instead, all careers flourished. Not a single one of the four main actors has failed at their careers, so I think it's safe to say that Brokeback did much to improve their careers. Williams has since been nominated two more times (she received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Brokeback) for Blue Valentine and My Week With Marilyn. Hatheway was nominated for Rachel Getting Married and has secured big box office success as recent as 2012 with her excellent portrayal of Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. Gyllenhaal hasn't seen much gold but he's had a solid career with critical favorites like End of Watch, Source Code, and Zodiac. Unfortunately as we all know Ledger's career was cut short after The Dark Knight in 2008, but he did receive the Oscar for his iconic performance as the Joker.

It was a critical and financial success, and everyone who was old enough to watch the film back in 2005 remembers it in their own way. Whether for or against same-sex marriage, there's no denying the value of Brokeback Mountain as a piece of film, with a story to be told. Love, at it's core, pain along the edges. It's these themes that people should look to, and accept the fact that people have a right to be happy. Brokeback was groundbreaking for it's time, and while it's slipped into the background after it's release, it still remains today at the forefront of films on the subject, and will continue to do so long after homosexuality has become widely accepted.

{2jtab: Film Details}

brokeback Mountain

MPAA Rating: R for sexuality, nudity, language and some violence.
134 mins.
: Ang Lee
Writer: Larry McMurtry
Cast: Heath Ledger; Jake Gyllenhaal; Randy Quaid; Michelle Williams
Genre: Drama | Romance
Love is a force of nature.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Fast or slow, I like the direction you're going."
Distributor: Focus Features
Official Site:
Release Date: December 16, 2005

Synopsis: From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ang Lee comes an epic American love story, based on the short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Proulx and adapted for the screen by the team of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana. Set against the sweeping vistas of Wyoming and Texas, the film tells the story of two young men ? a ranch-hand and a rodeo cowboy ? who meet in the summer of 1963, and unexpectedly forge a lifelong connection, one whose complications, joys and tragedies provide a testament to the endurance and power of love. Early one morning in Signal, Wyoming, Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) meet while lining up for employment with local rancher Joe Aguirre (Randy Quaid). The world which Ennis and Jack have been born into is at once changing rapidly and yet scarcely evolving. Both young men seem certain of their set places in the heartland ? obtaining steady work, marrying and raising a family ? and yet hunger for something beyond what they can articulate. When Aguirre dispatches them to work as sheepherders up on the majestic Brokeback Mountain, they gravitate towards camaraderie and then a deeper intimacy. At summer's end, the two must come down from Brokeback and part ways. Remaining in Wyoming, Ennis weds his sweetheart Alma (Michelle Williams), with whom he will have two daughters as he ekes out a living. Jack, in Texas, catches the eye of a rodeo queen Lureen Newsome (Anne Hathaway). Their courtship and marriage result in a son, as well as jobs in her father's business. Four years pass. One day, Alma brings Ennis a postcard from Jack, who is en route to visit Wyoming. Ennis waits expectantly for his friend, and when Jack at last arrives, in just one moment it is clear that the passage of time has only strengthened the men's attachment. In the years that follow, Ennis and Jack struggle to keep their secret bond alive. They meet up several times annually. Even when they are apart, they face the eternal questions of fidelity, commitment and trust. Ultimately, the one constant in their lives is a force of nature ? love.

{2jtab: Trailer}