Brokeback Mountain

Review Date:
Director: Ang Lee
Writer: Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana
Producers: Dianna Ossana, James Shamus
Heath Ledger as Ennis
Jake Gyllenhaal as Jack
Anne Hathaway as Lureen
The year is 1963 and two young men are hired to tend to some sheep up in Brokeback Mountain. Over the summer, the men get a little closer, to the point that they’re naked, making out and doing all kinds of cool gay stuff to each other. When the season ends, both men return home and ultimately marry ladies and have kids. But, over the years, they don’t forget each other and hook up every now and again for some man-love. What ensues is a western romance involving two men, a mountain, sheep and cowboy stuff!!
It’s not every day that Hollywood drops a movie into the mainstream featuring two gay cowboys played by two “name actors”, but with director Ang Lee behind the project, it was only a matter of time and the time, apparently…is now! So how is the film? Well, it’s a little too long for one. It also moves pretty slowly, a lot like OPEN RANGE did a couple of years ago. Then again, I loved OPEN RANGE! I actually didn’t really mind this film’s pace either, but it’s important to note for anyone who thinks this might be a “ride ‘em rodeo” on wheels. Ultimately, a film such as this relies on its story and characters, and in that respect, it delivers with two interesting lead characters grappling with a number of obstacles over their lifetime, including their secret homosexual-ness, but also a bunch of “regular” things like crappy father-in-laws, debts, work and managing marriages with kids in tow. You see, this isn’t simply a “gay cowboy movie” (although, believe you me, there’s plenty of that too), but a love story about two people who just can’t seem to connect, despite an obvious connection between them. I think we’ve all had that in our own lives, no matter what sex we appreciate more than the other. Another cool thing about this film was that it didn’t make these men-loving men the “stereotypical” over-the-top effeminate gay type, but rather simply…all-out cowboys who just happen to enjoy the company of men as opposed to the ladies (there’s nothing wrong with that!).

In fact, as cowboys, I found myself connecting and interested in their lives as they drank like fish, smoked like Marlboro Men, fought like drunk smokers and ranched like the cowmen ranchers that they were! I’m a wuss when it comes to the outdoors, but I’ve always respected the lives of real cowboys, and along with the gorgeous settings in this film (go Canada!), its essence was idyllically presented by Lee. But other than its runtime and the fact that Ledger mumbled a little too much for my taste (dude, I didn’t understand the film’s last line!!), I also didn’t connect entirely to the love story, despite it being reproduced so well, with a touch of emotion near the end, but mostly a distance – like I was watching the whole thing as a documentary. That said, I don’t think too many people watching this film can honestly say that they weren’t hanging by the edge of their seats waiting for these two great looking actors to jump all over each other and make out like the gay cowboys that they are in this movie…I know I was! (and make out they do…and do…and do). I think some of the “distance” that I felt had to do with the whole point of the film, which was a certain brand of incomplete love, but personally, I need to feel for characters like this – in fact, I want to get into their skin and cry like the man-child that I am, when the shit goes down. With this film, I felt a little tender here and there, but nothing truly grappled me by the heartstrings.

That’s not to take anything away from either actor, who both present fine performances here, particularly Ledger who (despite the mumbling) really builds a rock-of-a-man character who apparently can’t commit to anything or anyone, whether man, woman or anything else – typical man, right? The film also offers a handful of memorable scenes including one featuring Gyllenhaal, his awesome 80s mustache and a Thanksgiving dinner. A wonderfully presented awkward family moment. Ultimately, I enjoyed much of what the film had to offer as it was pretty to look at, presented a couple of solid characters with interesting lives over a period of two decades and I definitely appreciated the “twist” on the more typical western romance. Oh, and if you’re homophobic (or you just don’t want to admit that you’re gay just yet), stay tuned past the film’s man-on-man action as the two lovely actresses in the movie, Anne Hathaway and Ledger’s real-life love Michelle Williams, also present us with their nakedness. That’s right…the film has a little bit for everybody!

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

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