Perhaps because I had read the story beforehand and knew what was going to happen, I found myself looking at my watch more than a few times throughout BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. Ang Lee’s direction of the drama and the landscape are definitely Oscar-worthy. The acting is equally terrific by everyone involved, especially a heartbreaking Michelle Williams and a powerhouse performance from Heath Ledger (even if his SLING BLADE-like accent was indecipherable at times). But overall I just didn’t feel that captivating, emotional kick that would’ve made it great, instead of a good yet slow movie.
It indeed felt like a 25 page narrative expanded to 2+ hours, at least in the pacing. Things that are alluded to in one line of the story get stretched out to fill up time, and as a result supporting characters and subplots keep getting added that get a scene or two of screentime but have little effect. We see Jack stand up to his father in law…but we don’t ever see how that affects his life afterwards. Anna Farris shows up for a hot minute that doesn’t serve much purpose. Ennis’s relationship with Cassie is nice, yet the issues with his wife are neither resolved nor mentioned. And I did enjoy the scene with his daughter at the end, but again, this is the second time we’ve seen her as a real character, so the emotional effect is diminished. The result of this is that the main story, the relationship between Ennis and Jack, gets the shaft (no pun intended). You do feel the bond between the two, thanks to the acting, but it’s not as deep as it could be. Towards the end they mention that it’s been 20 years since they met, but it doesn’t feel like that at all—maybe because we’ve only seen their characters together a few times in the last hour. (Or it could be that they look like they aged three years—simply giving Donnie Darko a rockin’ pornstache does not make him look 40.)
I focused a lot on its faults, but BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is a decent drama with some good performances backing it up. If the subject matter doesn’t appeal to you, the man-love only occurs in a few scenes. And the guys do it with (naked) women also.
*A Groundbreaking Success (17:14): Talk about tooting your own horn. There’s some mention of the social implications of the film, but mostly it’s “Oh look how important we are! Look how much money we made!” The movie’s been out for a year and they’re already making extras like this and putting the word “timeless” on the cover. Hold your horses, people.
And I don’t want to be too immature (this is JoBlo.com after all…), but one of the producers says “The script absolutely got inside of me.” Hehehe.
*Music from the Mountain (11:19): A look at the use of music in the movie, from Gustavo Santaolalla’s simple yet memorable guitar score to Willie Nelson’s closing credits song. I still think the importance and effect of music in film is too often overlooked, so it’s nice to see it get attention like this.
*Impressions From the Film (2:34): A slideshow of random images from the movie. My impression…pointless.
From Script to Screen: Interviews with the writers Larry McMurtry and Dianna Ossana (10:54): I lost count of how many times words like “incredible,” “perfect,” and “beautiful” are repeated in this featurette. Seriously, it’s pretty much 10 minutes of cast and crew touching themselves while talking about the screenplay.
Sharing the Story: The Making of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (20:46): A Making Of special that aired on LOGO (the LGBT channel). It’s pretty much your standard PR “documentary,” never delving too deep in to the material and instead opting for very surface level interviews (and self-praise) with the cast and crew.
Directing From the Heart (7:26): Everyone on the project speaks very highly of Ang Lee in this extra and you gotta give the man credit for not only his talent as a director, but for consistently tackling diverse and challenging films. Even if he says things like, “I like the taste of that sound…BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN.”
On Being a Cowboy (5:45): A piece on the preparations and stunt work necessary for the actors to accurately portray cowboys (and cowgirl), which comes across very authentic and natural in the film. Ledger and Hathaway already had experience in riding horses, but Gyllenhaal needed to be “roughed up.”
No trailers or previews, but the set does come with eight collectible Postcards featuring shots from the movie. Send one to each of your homophobic friends!
Extra Tidbit: The 1998 episode of South Park entitled “Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls” featured the fortuitous line, "Independent films are those black and white hippie movies. They're always about gay cowboys eating pudding." I'm pretty sure I saw a Snack Pack in Heath Ledger's tackle box.