Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams,
Brokeback Mountain could possibly be labeled as a
homosexual love story, but to do so would be to sell the movie
short. While there is a strong relationship between the two
men, it's tempered by the fact that they must keep it to themselves
for fear that it will cost them their lives. Brokeback
Mountain explores both their lives and their growth in
the society that is obviously against what they share.
The movie begins with Ennis (Ledger) and Jack (Gyllenhaal)
taking on jobs as sheep herders up on Brokeback Mountain
for a shifty employer. As they watch after the sheep, one
taking care of the camp and the other tending watch, the two
young men get to know each other. It is here where we start
to get a sense of the character of the two men. Ennis is a
quiet introvert who can become violent when he loses control
of his temper, while Jack is brash and emotional, a bit careless.
One cold night, the two men get drunk and find themselves
in a moment of passion. Try as them may to write the incident
off, they continue to grow close emotionally. Once their time
on Brokeback is over, they go their separate ways.
During this time, both men find their separate paths. Both
end up getting married - one to his sweetheart and the other
to the daughter of a combine salesman. Through a chance piece
of mail, the two men reunite and rekindle their relationship
with the occasional trip back to Brokeback Mountain. Over
the years, viewers watch as their lives move back a forth,
between high and low points.
I can easily see why this movie has gotten a lot of awards
and Oscar nominations, especially when it comes to the acting.
Both main roles are unique and challenging roles. Older and
more established actors might have shied from the roles, but
both seem to be the kind of role that would set Ledge and
Gyllenhaal out from their previous performances. In fact,
Ledger's performance proves he can do more than sly pretty-boy.
The secondary cast, including Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway
as the men's wives are both excellent in supporting roles
and it was nice to see Randy Quaid in a serious role.
Ang Lee's direction is excellent. Sequences are filmed with
methodical care and just about every scene caries a certain
weight to the overall story. There are a number of scenes
that don't provide story elements, but do paint a wonderful
image of the time and location. But, this direction doesn't
glorify the locale - it works hard to present it as faithfully
as possible. To further this goal, sets, locations and costumes
are quite specific to the timeperiods and locations without
being blatantly obvious about it.
Anyone who writes this movie off as a homosexual love story
really misses the core of the tale - how a forbidden relationship
is handled in a society that is violently opposed to it. The
reactions and interactions of the characters drive home the
effect of the events. While I've never been one to buy into
the Oscar hype, I would say that Brokeback Mountain
really is quite an excellent story. If you can deal with the
subject matter, you'll enjoy the story.