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Brokeback Mountain /

Rated: R

Starring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Linda Cardellini, Anna Faris, Anne Hathaway

Directed by: Ang Lee

Produced by: Michael Costigan, Michael Hausman, Larry McMurtry
Written by: Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana
Distributor: Focus Features


Heath Ledger in Focus Features' Brokeback Mountain

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Focus Features' Brokeback Mountain

Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway in Focus Features' Brokeback Mountain

     A man meets another man in the summer of 1963 when they are chosen to be partners for a sheepherding job. They fall in love. Years pass and each marries into a standard family unit, only escaping to see each other for an occasional “fishing trip” once in awhile. They live lives of longing, yearning to express what they feel for each other, and cannot stand not being able to do so. The story doesn’t endorse their homosexuality or their straying from their families—in fact, if anything, it condemns it—but instead functions as a testament to the fact that forcing people against their wills (whether self-made or not) to conform to traditional values creates a deterioration in those traditional values rather than an enhancement of them.


     This story, titled Brokeback Mountain after the location that the two men—Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal)—spend their life-defining summer on together, has been brought to the silver-screen by the passionate and firm voice of director Ang Lee. The movie takes on the form of a Great American Tragedy, in more dimensions than one. First and foremost, it is a heartbreaking display of the withering devastation of Ennis and Jack’s families as they try to keep their secret quiet. Not to mention, it is also obviously tragic for the men themselves: they long to merely be who they believe themselves to be, but instead are forced to lie their ways out of doing so. And, perhaps most importantly, Brokeback Mountain is a testament to the 1960’s society’s failure to function properly, with the people and the government having radically different agendas from each other.


     The film has been the object of controversy since its Best Feature win at the Venice Film Festival last summer, when the mere idea of making a “gay cowboy movie” seemed shocking to just about everyone who heard about it, even the most open-minded of moviegoers. Now that Brokeback Mountain is here, and the frontrunner to win the Academy Award for Best Picture—a title which it may or may not be deserving of—it will be easier for the average viewer to dismiss the propaganda surrounding it. However, in stating this, I don’t mean to imply that this propaganda won’t cease to exist anymore: the extremist homosexual movement will always be eager to praise it and the staunch morals of the Right will be equally as quick to condemn it. Of course, this is all rather silly, given the fact that these characters’ sexualities are neither endorsed nor disapproved of by Lee or the screenwriters, Diana Ossana and James Schamus.


     While very finely assembled by Lee, who has certainly proven himself over the years to be a master at what he does, Brokeback Mountain’s true power and atmosphere lies in its performances. Ledger and Gyllenhaal collide (literally) with a chemistry that is so incendiary that it hammers home the fate of the final act in a way that is indescribably powerful. But, even so, the real miracle of the film is Michelle Willaims, a relatively unknown actress who plays Ennis’ wife with such beautiful and relatable truth that it would be a crime to deny her of the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work. She is the heart of Brokeback Mountain’s social themes.


     While unfortunately the most misunderstood film of 2005, Brokeback Mountain is, at its core, a treasure of a movie, defined by its ability to show empathy for all of its characters to provide an ultimately heartbreaking view of a controversial time in America. As the plot unfolds and the beautiful Gustavo-Santoalalla-scored soundtrack reaches its crescendo, viewers will not only be touched, but they will be observant of what is unfolding. This, in itself, makes Brokeback Mountain the powerful motion picture that it is.


-Danny, Bucket Reviews

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