Brokeback Mountain Movie Review

The first thing you're likely to hear about Brokeback Mountain, the new film from Ang Lee, is that it's about gay cowboys. Truthfully, that's all the novelty it has to offer. Just the thought of screen hunks Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal making out is a point of sale or controversy, depending on your point of view. But once you get past the hook, what emerges is a much more traditional, but no less affecting, tragedy about two people who simply cannot have what they want.

Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal) meet while working for Joe Aguirre (a menacing Randy Quaid), looking after sheep on the eponymous mountain. Their friendship develops over fairly archetypal lines. Ennis is the stoic one, Jack the mischievous one. Lee wisely lets this develop naturally over time. Ultimately, though, in a burst of passion, the two reveal what's been simmering since they first saw each other.

Once Jack and Ennis return to their everyday worlds, an aching futility creeps in. They separate and attempt to settle down and live "normal" lives, meeting clandestinely on the mountain that brought them together. But nothing will ever be the same for either man.

Lee brings his A-game, combining the romantic texture of Sense and Sensibility and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with the awkward realism of The Ice Storm. He doesn't shy away from the graphic lust these two have for each other any more than he does the lush grandeur of the surroundings in which their love blossoms. To the latter end, Rodrigo Prieto, a cinematographer usually known for grittier fare such as 21 Grams, contributes some of the most gorgeous images of Lee's oeuvre.

The performances are equally compelling. Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams give career-best turns as the wives of Jack and Ennis respectively, suffering in their own ways through quietly disastrous marriages. Gyllenhaal's contribution admirably overcomes increasingly distracting make-up jobs that resemble a high school play's attempt at aging a character.

Ledger gives the film's most complex, engrossing portrayal. Ennis presents himself as a more conventional male stereotype than Jack, so the tension between his John Wayne persona and his sexuality is all the more demanding. Ledger favors nuance in depicting this struggle, with powerful results.

The screenplay, adapted from the Annie Proulx short story by Diana Ossana and Lonesome Dove novelist Larry McMurtry, divides into two parts. The first is a nearly self-contained encounter tale. The second follows the characters through decades of betrayal and compromise. Though chronologically disparate, these pieces fit together nicely through the writers' choices, highlighting moments that reveal the growth not only of the love affair, but of the characters themselves.

The love story depicted in Brokeback Mountain is as traditional as that depicted in Casablanca, Romeo & Juliet, or Gone with the Wind, but instead of war, family rivalry, or the general bitchiness of one of the characters getting in the way, societal prejudice is the culprit. This is not to say that the film explicitly attempts to make some sort of statement about gay rights or social injustice. If anything, the film's unswerving focus on the relationship, treating it with the same narrative respect reserved for Rhett and Scarlett or Harry and Sally, is a statement in and of itself. That Lee, Ledger, and everyone else involved are in top form elevates this film from mere gimmick to a work of universal substance, earning its heartbreak every step of the way.

Reviewed at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival.

The DVD includes only a few extras: Three making-of featurettes and a pair of interviews with the screenwriters.

I most certainly do not.

Comments

vegas's picture

vegas

There is nothing natural, loving, emotional, or good about anal sex, and it is not hateful saying that.

8 years 7 months ago
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thommo's picture

thommo

Who are this 90% who find it disgusting? I love/sleep with/have relationships with other blokes (I don't really like the term gay as it suggests a cultural identity choice but have never thought it an issue to keep quiet about), have lived my whole life in London, travelled the world, have a large family, a huge group of friends - mostly straight probably - and am good friends with the people I work with. I can count the number of people who have genuinly shown disgusted hatred towards me on one hand. Maybe this 90% all live in Noneck Virginia and not in the modern world. Educate yourselves people.

8 years 7 months ago
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thommo's picture

thommo

Where has your country's morals gone? Sorry to bring this up, as it's a cliche, but could we start with illegal wars, gun crime, rigged voting, failure to comply with environmental agreements? Also, to all the people who are banging on about this film representing America's moral low - have you actually seen it? Whatever happened to not judging another until you've walked a day in their shoes? And why do I feel like this is falling on deaf ears? Love to you all X

8 years 7 months ago
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Gypsymuse's picture

Gypsymuse

This movie leveled me awe-struck. I was amazed at the compelling emotions between two consenting adults simply falling in love. Where my headache comes in, is where among these posts I see the bigotry and ignorance from those who are manipulated by their brainwashed christian belief system. If someone for once could look past the shell of two people and actually acknowledge the passion and the deliverance of the film. It has a unique aesthetic value of its own. The beauty of the cinematography only enhances the film's setting. I agreed with the review of this movie regarding how Lee chooses not to approach the gay rights issue; however, I believe that in such an approach you can also witness how bigotry against gay people and how they choose to live, will not only hurt them, but those around them as they try to live a lie that society enforces them to live.

8 years 7 months ago
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extraSTANDIN's picture

extraSTANDIN

Societal prejudice is the culprit.Before viewing the film trypicking the dirt from underneath your fingernails. Heterosexualsenjoy oral/ anal sex. So focus on the elements of"emotion" - relationship/ romance/ and graphicrepresentation in the form of an "art film". Can youbelieve your eyes -- two straight actors capable of "pullingit together" and allowing you to view "prejudice"- not porn.

8 years 8 months ago
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xokaya24@aol.com's picture

xokaya24@aol.com

An absolutely beautiful love story. The movie shows that whether you're gay or not, love connects us all. Beautifully played, and Jake is a hottie.

8 years 6 months ago
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Kees Franc's picture

Kees Franc

A stepping stone for the gay community.It is so rewarding to see what's been accomplished in just a few decades.I know, I was there tru all of it; in liberal Holland, no less.So now we have a Golden Globe and maybe an Oscar.And in a few years the gay issue won't be important at all anymore.So for the gay-haters out there:we are NOT going to go away, so deal with it.

8 years 7 months ago
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hitman's picture

hitman

First, let me tell you guys that I am an Asian and have read the Bible more than twice. American film or not, pro-american or not, pro-bible or not, this film has displayed simply but POWERFUL what love can realy achieve..that is, love is indeed knows NO boundaries!..this what makes some of the "religious" pips here freak out, they just can't understand that love really knows no boundaries. I hope that someday, God would really come down to their faces and tell em perosnally that this is true!... In the film, both the men chose to live or at least conformed to what is just acceptable to the society, that in the end, it is the love itself that endures even after all what is "acceptable" becomes mere tragedy...

8 years 7 months ago
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Naunya's picture

Naunya

To hey bozo, if you want to sex with your dog ok but stay away from my dogs. If you want to have sex with kids 5 you are sick and need tobe locked up. Remember don't blame child molesting on gay's 98% of all child molester are heterosexual.To coyote you use God and hate in the same sentance. Are you talking about the God of love? when Jesus said "love one another" when did he ever say hate? Maybe you should get togeather with Bozo he likes dog's(coyote's are part of the dog family).As for the movie Brokeback Mountain it is one of the best movies I have ever seen and it is true to life. I have seen this story played out in real life. Thank God that I didn't bend to society. Because I would have missed out on 25yrs of being with my soul mate. I lost him do to a untimely death (nothing to do with HIV).If anyone thinks that two men can't truely love each other your wrong and love is not all about sex. Gay's are not all about sex. But I know that some people can't get over the sex point, maybe because they think that sex and love are the same thing, they sometimes work togeather and when they do it is wonderful.I'll get off my soapbox now.May God's love be with all of you, Naunya

8 years 6 months ago
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jshush's picture

jshush

Can I just add that it's this kind of religious hatred that causes the mass slaughter of thousands of people in the world trade centre.The Al-Qieda believe that Westerners are immoral and will perish with exactly the same confidence and hatred as you believe homosexuals will.But I'm wasting my breath.

8 years 8 months ago
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Brokeback Mountain Rating

" Essential "

Rating: R, 2005

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