Monday, November 22, 2010

985. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Running Time: 135 minutes
Directed By: Ang Lee
Written By: Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana, from the short story Brokeback Mountain by E. Annie Proulx
Main Cast: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Randy Quaid


Reaching closer and closer to that golden number 201 and finishing off "Ang Lee Week" in the process, "Brokeback Mountain" was the next film I tackled. I'd seen it a couple of times before and always thought it was a pretty solid film. I think I may have liked it just a little bit more this go around.

When Ennis del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal) go looking for work from Joe Aguirre (Quaid), they are assigned to work on Brokeback Mountain, keeping an eye on the sheep and protecting the from coyotes for an entire summer. Into the mountains they head, going in strangers, but coming out much more than that. While working together in the mountains, Jack and Ennis strike up a love relationship (which some people will argue gets started a little too fast and without much reasoning). When the summer comes to an end, Jack and Ennis go their separate ways, Jack back to riding bulls in the rodeo and Ennis to marry Alma and start a family. Four years go by and Jack and Ennis see nothing of each other. Jack ends up marrying a little, rich country girl by the name of Lureen and Ennis and Alma go to work popping out two babies and trying to make ends meet. One day Ennis receives a postcard from Jack, requesting a meeting and Ennis is more than anxious to oblige, replying with a simple "You bet". They are caught right away by Alma, who doesn't say anything and instead swallows the pain and realization that her husband is cheating on her and with another man. The two go away for a weekend and then are forced to get back to their regular lives. This keeps up for the better part of twenty years, with Jack continuously urging Ennis to move to Texas with him and start something together and Ennis always adamantly refusing for fear of what society will think of them and do to them.


To me, this film is less about the fact that two cowboys are having a homosexual love affair and more about companionship between two men who just happen to be sexually attracted to each other. There are two key points to this film, in my opinion, one much less obvious that the other. Right around the twenty minute mark of the movie, there is a scene where a naked Ennis del Mar takes a shower, while Jack Twist sits in the foreground and peels a potato, while sucking on a cigarette. To me, this is a key scene, because Jack doesn't turn to look at Ennis and his naked body. I think this is a clear indicator that their relationship isn't purely animal attraction and lust, but more about friendship with the added sexual element. The other key element to "Brokeback Mountain" is the fact that Ennis represents the quiet man and Jack represents the flamboyant man. Jack is ready to flaunt his love for Ennis and doesn't really seem to care, just so he and Ennis are happy. He constantly hounds Ennis to come and live with him, so that their secret "hunting/fishing" trips can come to an end and they can be with one another all the time. Ennis doesn't want this, as he seems much more content with the secret trips and doesn't want a soul to know about his relationship with Jack. This is evident immediately following the first sexual encounter between Ennis and Jack, as Ennis stands outside the tent, not saying a word and riding off to tend to his work, almost in shame.

This is a sad story, not just because of what happens to the characters, but because of what the characters are forced to do, because society says it is what they should do. If you think about it, the lives that Jack and Ennis lead, really don't mean a whole lot to them. They both get married to fill the lonely time between their secret trips, they both have families and in the case of Ennis, he's forced to work dead end jobs just to make ends meet. These lives mean nothing to these characters and because of the imaginary restrictions that society puts on the homosexual community, condemning them for falling in love with a member of, what is deemed as, the wrong sex, they are forced to lead dead end lives, never being able to just go and do what makes them happy. Instead, their love is condemned, only to flourish on Brokeback Mountain, for several lone weeks out of the year.

As far as the technicalities go, Ledger is the standout star of the picture and it really makes you miss seeing the guy on the big screen. He was a great actor and I'm sure, like River Phoenix and James Dean, he'll be talked about for years, as people wonder how much greater he could've gotten. Gyllenhaal was fine too and really there wasn't a bad cast member in the bunch. Ang lee bangs out another good movie and hammers home the fact that he is indeed a fairly versatile director, making westerns, martial arts films, dramas about real families and light hearted comedies. The cinematography here is also gorgeous, really capturing the nature that is essential to any western. The score was also great, and kind of put a modern spin on the classic guitar of the old western movie.

RATING: 8.5/10 Well that wraps up another director and once I watch two more movies, I'll be all set to make my TOP 20: #102 - #201.


November 22, 2010 2:03am


  1. I cannot add much. Your comment 'A sad story...because of what the characters are forced to to because society says its what they should do' And the knock on effect on Alma and the family.

  2. I'll take a minute Ray to let you know that I'm likely going to be taking a short break from the "1001" book...just a month or so...Keep leaving comments though, I enjoy reading them and replying to them.


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