“Honestly, Alma. We’re really goin’ fishin’ this time.
I’m gonna catch us some Oscars.”
Gone Fishin’ For Some Cowboy Lovin’
If one wishes to be an involved spectator in the Super Bowl of movies (aka Oscars), one has to scale “Brokeback Mountain.” The film has lassoed 8 Academy nominations and is leading in the Best Picture race. The often described “gay cowboy movie” is surely on a stride, but is it riding on an over hyped horse? If a film, especially one to snag a Best Picture, is truly excellent, then it should overcome the hype, right?
“Brokeback Mountain” tells the complicated love story of Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal). They first meet in the summer of 1963, as short term sheep herders in the idyllic seclusion of Brokeback Mountain. They grow close, awkwardly fall in love, and eventually act on intimate feelings neither one can deny. When their tenure lasts however, they end their passion, part ways and attempt a normal lifestyle. Both marry pretty women and produce offspring. It’s only years afterwards that they meet again and cautiously continue their affair. They develop a habit of leaving their families with an alibi that they’re going fishing.
Rightfully so, “Brokeback Mountain” scores points on being groundbreaking. Indeed, releasing it takes guts. But how about the film itself? In the future, when gay relationships aren’t taboo anymore, how well would be the film be received? In my opinion, watching “Brokeback Mountain” is like watching an old “classic” film that seems important but has the ability to bore. The film commits its biggest mistake at the start, when it takes its lazy time to gather momentum. It is determined to be quiet and sparse. While quiet can make someone lean in and listen, it can also make someone fall asleep. Furthermore, the beginning could have shown less soporific images of sheep, as if the movie was daring me to count them.
When the story finally kicks in, the movie becomes relatively involving. I was a bit startled when Jack and Ennis commit the first act of passion, since it came out of nowhere. It served as a warning of the film’s refusal to be obvious. I realize a subtle approach reflects the lovers who suppress and hide their uneasy nature. But this requires the viewer to assume a lot of things. I truly wish I had read the short story ahead of time, because the movie is basically inexpressive. I didn’t perceive any access to the characters’ inner thoughts and feelings; it made the movie feel incomplete.
With this in mind, I have to carefully praise the actors, given that (I think) their job is to fully express their characters as best as they could. My favorite among the cast is Michelle Williams, who plays Ennis’ wife. She achingly steals her scenes with flawless facial expressions. To her credit, she might have played the most accessible character, even if she doesn’t have the longest of screen time. As the doomed lovers, Ledger and Gyllenhaal make an interesting match, considering we hardly see these actors in risky roles like this. I liked Gyllenhaal better since Jack has more heart on his sleeves, though Ledger nails some powerful moments towards the end.
Although I have problems with the movie, I will say that the story is compelling. To me, “Brokeback Mountain” is about two men conformed to lies and deceptions, out of social necessity and indisputable love. Not only do they deceive their wives, they commit an even bigger offense by deceiving themselves. It’s true that it’s about a “forbidden love” just like Romeo and Juliet, but Ennis and Jack are also dealing with “acquired self-hatred.” I think that’s where the deeper tragedy lies. They matured learning to deny themselves of love. Even when love becomes undeniable, they are too wrought to nurture it. I can see why it would affect viewers. It has a destructive portrait of love. Sadly, “Brokeback Mountain” doesn’t leave me with any lasting impact. Rather, I’m left with the disappointment that I couldn’t join others in raving about it. I liked the story, not crazy about the way it was told. So come game time on March 5th, I’m rooting for “Crash” even if I end up getting hurt.
Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Randy Quaid, Linda Cardellini, Anna Faris
Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana
Based on the short story by
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, language and some violence