By Kasey Schiedeck | Images property of Focus Features
It’s more than a “gay cowboy movie” as many have come to label Brokeback Mountain. It’s a story about life. And love. And the inexplicable boundaries even the strongest attraction may not overcome. If ever there was a climate for such a triumph, the ubiquitous debate over same sex marriage surely counts. The film is gentle in its account of two young cowboys who fall deeply in love but powerful in its execution making it eternally progressive.
Brokeback Mountain Movie Review
The two men, Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), meet in the summer of 1963 when both are hired to herd sheep on Wyoming’s Brokeback Mountain. Jack’s attraction is instant, Ennis is far more reticent. After a few rounds of whiskey on a tensely cold night, they fall asleep beside one another until the indisputable passion awakens and unites them in a fury of intimacy. The ensuing lovemaking is as much a shock to them as it is to us but the affair continues as the young men grow closer. The summer ends but their love does not. Both go on to marry other women. When they meet again for the first time after four years, the allure is there and unknowingly grabs hold of them once again, this time in front of Ennis’s wife (Williams).
The remaining half of Brokeback Mountain follows both men in their separate lives as each one silently yearns for the other. Jack thinks he and Ennis ought to run a ranch together somewhere, forgetting their lives to be together. Ennis, recalling two ranchers in his childhood who were murdered for living together, is adamant that he “ain’t queer” and both he and Jack have other lives to tend to now. What they end up missing is a life together that both aggressively yearn for. Ennis discovers too late that he lost his chance at true love.
The film is adapted by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurty from a short story written by Annie Proulx. What translates is an intense character study that remains a pivotal part of the film. Director Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) keeps the story at a close proximity to Jack and Ennis in a style that all but demands compassion.
Lee has crafted a masterfully gentle but emotionally sharp film. His deft camera style elicits superb acting from all four well-cast leads. Williams’s Alma is a portrait of reserved pain and Anne Hathaway elicits a sharp comical element to her rich rodeo girl living off of daddy’s money in a tender but loveless marriage. Gyllenhaal nails Jack’s innocent boyhood charm masking a sea of angst. But it is Ledger’s performance as the stiff and deeply remorseful Ennis that shines the brightest. He leaves no reservation about his recent plethora of acting award nominations with his gruff and silent execution allowing slight body movements and facial expressions to do the talking.
In an interview recently with Entertainment Weekly, both Ledger and Gyllenhaal discussed the process of creating a passionate and almost violent ardor between their characters. It’s been done before plenty of times, but never as physically or emotionally adroit. Gyllenhaal talked about ridding himself of that last bit of homosexuality that made the sheer though of such an encounter detestable. Brokeback Mountain doesn’t ask that anyone alter his or her concept of homosexuality in the least; it shows what it shows in the context of precise articulation that cannot be dismissed. See the film before you make an assertion about its content.
Directed By Ang Lee
Written By Dianna Ossana and Larry McMurty
Based on a short story by Annie Proulx
Ennis Del Mar: Heath Ledger
Jack Twist: Jake Gyllenhaal
Alma Beers Del Mar: Michelle Williams
Lureen Newsome Twist: Anne Hathaway
Joe Aquirre: Randy Quaid
Cassie Cartwright: Linda Cardellini
LaShawn Malone: Anna Faris