Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Want to know something utterly shocking? When I finished “Brokeback Mountain”–I wasn’t gay. I know, you’re gasping and holding your breath, but I’m being honest. When I finished this homosexual love story, I wasn’t gay. I’m a heterosexual of young age, with an untarnished record, and yet, when I finished the movie I didn’t find the gay lifestyle appealing to my own tastes, and I was still sexually aroused by good looking women. Yes, you misanthropic, religiously fanatical, homophobic morons, watching a movie with gay people about the gay lifestyle won’t turn you gay. Can you believe that? And if you do, then perhaps your sexuality is already in doubt, but to those open-minded few who watched the film in spite of the themes and or because of its themes, then congratulations, you’re proof that humans are still evolving.

You are in the elite who know reality shows are not real, who know how horrible Ashlee Simpson sings, and who know that watching a movie with gay people won’t turn you gay, just like watching a movie with all black actors won’t turn you black. “Brokeback Mountain”, based on the short story by E. Annie Proulx, tells the heartbreaking story of two ranch workers whom are forced to herd sheep and must camp out with the animals. The two don’t really get along too well, but they talk and there’s obvious sexual tension from the get go, and after a few sexual confrontations, they decide not to see each other again. “Brokeback Mountain” is surely in the spirit of films like “The Notebook” in which two people’s love survives time, and new relationships, and soon they begin seeing each other again after four years apart, and when they get together they discover their passion is still there, and boy does it ever follow with a punch in the stomach plot twist that will leave you with your jaw open.

“Brokeback Mountain” is an original piece of filmmaking in every conceivable definition, and it’s not a “gay movie”, it’s a film about love, it’s a film about love that can never be revealed. And that theme should and does transcend gender issues, and touches the audience on a personal level. Our two main characters are opposites in many ways, yet still find it difficult to be apart.  Heath Ledger, who I’ve–many times before–declared as a horrible actor, gives an excellent performance as Ennis, the troubled and silent man who has no idea how to deal with his feelings for Jack Swift. Gyllenhaal gives yet another great performance as the man who knows right away what he wants, but he just can’t have it, but that never seems to affect his life and his superficial relationships with his wife, and her family.

Ledger’s performance, however, steals the film giving a rousing portrayal of this man who doesn’t know what he wants. He wants to be a family man and connect with the daughters he barely knows, but he wants to also be with the man he loves, and they go to Brokeback Mountain, a metaphorical utopia for them where they’re able to express their love without interruption or corruption from the outside world. Brokeback Mountain turns essentially from a place where a new relationship is sparked to a veritable paradise almost detached from the homophobic generation they live in. The antagonism towards their affair is surprisingly under-played with no real obstacle other than their own embarrassment for their acts which they want to pursue but perceive as wrong because society does, and of course the women they romance and eventually shatter.

Linda Cardellini has a particularly sad role as a lonely waitress who falls for Ennis and is torn to pieces falling for him, and of course Michelle Williams who really does give an utterly wrenching performance as a submissive wife who doesn’t quite understand her husband Ennis’s affair, doesn’t really know how to approach it, yet hesitates to confront her husband on it or else she’ll break their family in two. Sadly, though, the story of these two men is surprisingly underwhelming with never enough of a story involving these supporting characters and their dealings with the situations. Hathaway’s character really does nothing here but react and sit around unaware of her husband’s affairs, while Randy Quaid’s character really has no importance in the long run. We never got to see enough how Ennis’s affairs ruined his family, and we never really got to see much of Jack and his family.

It’s established basically what he’s going through in terms of his relationship with his wife, but not enough to bring us in to the mind set of a man who wants to be with his lover. Meanwhile, the climax is sadly anti-climactic with an ending that really doesn’t live up to the build-up it promises. It gives us these small hints as to the resolution of this situation and it really doesn’t own up to what it hints at during the course of the story, and it felt incomplete. Despite being underwhelming, anti-climactic, and slightly overrated, there’s no denying that “Brokeback Mountain” is an important and original romance that really and finally portrays the homosexual romance as two humans falling in love and never plays it for clichés, stereotypes, or comedy. It’s a heartbreaking, beautifully acted, piece of romance, and deserves to be seen.

It’s safe to say, though, “Brokeback Mountain” doesn’t end on a light note, and really does end on a truly heartbreaking last sequence that makes the film worth its hype. Ang Lee’s direction and Rodrigo Pietro’s cinematography are gorgeous as they paint the world within these two men’s family as cluttering, artificial, murky, and often dim, while they paint Brokeback Mountain as a sanctuary for these two with rolling clouds, and amazing forests. “Brokeback Mountain” and the success following it truly shows how America really has managed to evolve in its sensibilities and feelings towards homosexuality, and it’s a sad elegy about forbidden love that portrays its characters not as stereotypes or clichés, but as human.