The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Brokeback Mountain
By Vince Palomarez | Images property of Focus Features
Brokeback Mountain tells the story of two young men - a ranch-hand and a rodeo cowboy - who meet in the summer of 1963, and unexpectedly forge a lifelong connection, one whose complications, joys and tragedies provide a testament to the endurance and power of love.
Brokeback Mountain Movie Review
Leading up to its release I was very apprehensive about seeing Brokeback Mountain. The gay theme was such a big controversy; I was worried that it would dominate the movie and overshadow what really mattered, the story. All those fears were put to rest after seeing it though, because when it comes down to it, Brokeback Mountain is first and foremost a traditional love story. The gay theme is nothing more than a way to make the film separate itself from the glut of doomed romance films to come our way the past few years. This is as much a tragic love story as Romeo and Juliet with the exception that instead of a man and woman, it’s a man and man. The awkwardness some people may feel about watching a film with this kind of subject matter is quickly forgotten after the initial shock of Ennis’ and Jack’s first connection wears off. After the shock is gone you’re left with a powerful love story about two individuals who want to be with each other, yet can’t due to the attitude toward that particular lifestyle at the time.
The themes and situations in Brokeback Mountain could’ve easily been a joke had it not been for the incredible performances from Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. Ledger in particular turns in a career making performance that will certainly get him recognition come Oscar time. His portrayal of Ennis Del Mar is so powerful and so convincing; you forget that this was the guy who was in A Knight’s Tale. The character of Ennis is confused and lost and uses anger to express those feelings and Ledger does an excellent job of putting those emotions on display. His character is so scared to admit his feelings for Jack because of his father’s vocal disapproval that he hides his emotions and refuses to admit what he really is. Mr. Ledger constantly reminds us of how torn Ennis is between the life that he wants and the life he’s been told is right. He does such an excellent job of displaying Ennis’s inner turmoil in trying to live the “correct” life only to push it all aside the moment he sees Jack.
While not quite on the level as Mr. Ledger’s performance, Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as the passionate Jack Twist certainly deserves some mention. Unlike Ennis and despite what his character says, Jack knows exactly who he is and is not afraid to admit it. Gyllenhaal adds just the right amount of innocence in his portrayal of Jack, and you can’t help but feel for him as his emotions force him to make some bad decisions during the course of the film. Jack’s story takes second stage to Ennis story, but Gyllenhaal takes advantage of every scene he’s in to make Jack’s character matter just as much as Ennis.
More than the two leads deserve credit for their respective performances in Brokeback Mountain. The cast reads like a who’s who of late 90’s teen movies and TV shows. Those movies and TV shows may have given the actors a bad reputation, yet none of them drops the ball when given their moment in the spotlight. Michelle Williams of Dawson’s Creek fame in particular puts in a performance that will erase any memories of her days at the creek. She’s flown under the radar the past few years after Dawson’s Creek went off the air, but she came back in the role of Ennis’s wife Alma. She does such a magnificent job displaying the anger and sadness that is so important to her character, if she doesn’t win the best supporting actress award come Oscar season, it would be a sin.
There are so many individual pieces that make Brokeback Mountain so good, a great general is needed to put them all together into a compelling story and Ang Lee definitely succeeds in that task. Recently Ang Lee has been known more for his distinct visual style in films like The Hulk and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but before that he was a master at telling a compelling character driven story, Brokeback Mountain is the perfect combination of the two. Mr. Lee really puts the characters first in the spotlight, but also manages to use his unique visual eye to help enhance the emotions and feelings of the characters. When the characters are at their happiest in the mountains together, the surroundings are so colorful and alive, but when they are farthest away from where they want to be, the environment becomes bland and cold. He never lets you forget about the journey the characters are going through and uses every possible resource to help emphasize how important their story is.
Trying to find something bad in this film is like trying to find a positive in the Oakland Raiders season, there isn’t much at all. About the only thing I can really complain about is makeup work. The story in Brokeback Mountain is supposed to be over a 20 year period, yet a majority of the characters never seem to look older than they do now. I understand that budget issues may have prevented them from being able to do a better makeup job, but putting a moustache and sideburns on a guy doesn’t necessarily make him look 10 years older. It’s a small complaint, but it was the only thing I can really think of.
Seeing Anne Hathaway in 70’s style cowboy clothes, powder white makeup and a blonde wig is truly frightening.
Brokeback Mountain is the clear favorite to sweep all the awards at the Oscars. Every person involved goes above and beyond the call of duty to make this film truly memorable. While the subject matter may be a little “risqué” for some, it never takes center stage and in the end we are left with a touching, yet tragic love story.
Sources: Images property of Focus Features
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