Written by Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana
Directed by Ang Lee
Running Time: 2:14
for sexuality, nudity, language
and some violence.
Brokeback Mountain was a beautiful, heartbreaking movie that left me haunted by its imagery long after I left the theater.
Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) are two cowboys up in Wyoming. In the summer of 1963, they are teamed up to look after some sheep up in Brokeback Mountain. With only each other for companionship, the two become closer and closer until one night their relationship is taken to another level. They continue their forbidden affair until the summer comes to an end and they're forced to go their separate ways. But their hearts are still tied to each other, and even after being apart for four years, their love returns. But in that day and age, they can not reveal their true selves. Jack wants the two of them to buy their own ranch somewhere and live together forever, but Ennis, now married with two daughters, knows this can never be. Jack eventually gets married and has his own child, but he and Ennis still meet, on occasion, for years until it comes to a sudden end.
Brokeback Mountain is, unfortunately, often referred to as the 'gay cowboy movie' which only demeans how amazing this movie was. I had my doubts walking in, but this movie grew on me like no other, and the final shot of the film has continued to haunt me. Since the general idea of the movie was so widely known before I saw the film, I wasn't sure what to expect. The film starts off very slow, with Jack and Ennis meeting, getting a job, and living up on the mountain. They only have each other for companionship, and while Jack is outgoing and outrageous, Ennis is very quiet and reserved. When they get together, it is very sudden, harsh and somewhat graphic. At first, I wasn't sure what the attraction was to each other. Jack I saw as more of a player, someone who did this kind of thing often, maybe every summer. Ennis on the other hand looked like he was lonely and needed to release his frustrations. But as the movie went on, my opinion of them changed, especially with Ennis. Jack continued to be the more outgoing one, always willing to drive 14 hours to be with Ennis, but Ennis was always sullen and quiet. But when he was around Jack, he opened up like he could with no other person, even his daughters who adored him to no end. Ennis was a man trapped in a world he didn't like, and unable to live in the world he wanted, for fear of what might happen to him. And that is captured in an amazing performance by Health Ledger.
If there was ever an actor who deserved award recognition for a role, it is Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. Ledger transformed himself completely for the role of Ennis Del Mar, to the point where he sounds like a smarter version of Karl Childers from Sling Blade. Initially I wanted to laugh at his accent, but it grew on me as the movie moved on. The character of Ennis was, as I said, quiet and reserved, but there were times where he would get extremely angry and upset. But it was the simple look in his eyes that did it for me. With just a glance up from beneath his cowboy hat, Ledger could show sorrow and fear in such a way that you immediately connected with him. His performance was easily the best performance I've seen this year.
Gyllenhaal was also very good in his role, but his performance wasn't as finely tuned as Ledger's. I never could completely figure out where his character was coming from. Did he love Ennis? Was he just in it for the sex? Was this something he did all the time? With Ennis I could tell that his love for Jack was pure and that he felt something for Jack he couldn't feel for anyone. Michelle Williams did a fine job as Alma, Ennis's wife. She was the one person who found out Ennis's secret and was forced to live with it. Anne Hathaway, taking a break from her princess roles, did a decent job as Jack's wife, but her character was never involved as much as Alma's. This movie belonged to Heath Ledger.
I did have a couple of issues with the movie. First off, I thought it was way too long. There were plenty of scenes that didn't serve any purpose and could have easily been cut out to make the movie more streamlined. The other issue I had was with time. The movie took place over the course of about 15-20 years. Every so often a year would show up on screen so you knew it was 1978 now, Ennis's daughters grew up, and Jack's wife's hair took on different shapes, but Ennis and Jack themselves never looked any older. They grew moustaches, let their sideburns grow, but they looked exactly the same as they did when the first met. The only reason that was a problem was because it made the movie feel like they were still young people in love, and not two older people who had this long and in depth relationship. They never looked mature, no matter how much you surrounded them with, so their relationship never felt mature. That was probably the one thing I would have really liked to have changed: a better makeup job so that I felt like I was growing older with them.
Skip this paragraph if you don't want to know how the movie ends. Then there was the heartbreaking ending. Ennis and Jack see each other a couple of times a year and go fishing in the mountains. They send postcards back and forth to each other and one day, Ennis sends a postcard that comes back to him marked, deceased. Jack was killed, presumably by a bunch of guys who found out what he was, even though his wife told a different story. Ennis visits Jack's parents and finds an old shirt of his he thought he lost that first summer they were together. It was the one thing of his Jack had. Ennis brings it back to the trailer he now lives in, and in the final shot of the movie, we see the shirt hanging in the closet, next to a picture postcard of Brokeback Mountain. Right then the entire movie hit me in that one single shot. Ennis and Jack loved each other like no other, and after years together, all Ennis had left was a shirt and a postcard. He never got to say goodbye; he didn't even have a picture of Jack. All he had was his secret.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I loved Brokeback Mountain. I had a couple of small issues with it, but the breathtaking scenery and music, and the incredible performance of Heath Ledger more than made up for the small flaws. This is not a movie that everyone will appreciate, but it is certainly one for the ages.
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