Friday, January 13, 2006

Movie Review -- Brokeback Mountain

Adapted from the E. Annie Proulx short story, Brokeback Mountain is the tale of two cowboys, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist -- played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal -- and their forbidden love for each other. They meet one summer while working on Brokeback Mountain, and the film traces their struggles and joys over a relationship that spans 20 years.

It was odd seeing a movie like this in a city like this, in a city where a movie like this is being so embraced. Unlike some counties in this country -- and around the world -- where the movie is being banned, here in San Francisco the film is showing in multiple theaters and multiple screens within individual theaters. I was almost worried about seeing it because of the hype. When D (a gay man in the Bay Area) saw it the first time, he said he didn't like it all that much because it didn't meet his expectations; the second time, he fell in love with it.

The movie starts at a slow and mellow pace, as the two men meet and establish their secretive relationship. Director Ang Lee takes his time with developing the bond between the two men, and he lets the sublime landscape of Wyoming create a rhythm that carries the viewer through the film. After their job on the mountain ends, the two men go back to their real lives. But it is clear that neither of them will ever be the same. After a few years, they cannot stay apart. Jack sends Ennis a postcard asking if he wants to meet up; Ennis's response is a two-word: You Bet. From this moment on, I was more involved with the story and the characters than virtually any movie I have ever seen.

The movie is about love. It is about passion. It is about fear. It is about isolation. It stuns me when people say this isn't a "gay movie." Of course it's a "gay movie." It's a movie that others can relate to, no doubt -- to the themes of the barriers that one faces with love, of the power of love, and of the tragedy that love can lead us to -- but to say it's not a gay movie is like saying Uncle Tom's Cabin isn't about race.

Ledger shines as Ennis. He is a man who pushes everyone away from him and lives in a world of total solitude. For him, the moment with Jack on Brokeback Mountain (and the repetition of that moment throughout the years) seems the one time where he can feel fully free; yet he lives in terror of crossing over fully into that freedom; this terror seems as much -- if not more so -- an internal terror than an external one. On the phone with D, he asked me if I thought their relationship would have worked had the two men been able to/chosen to live their lives together? Or would Ennis have pushed Jack away? The complexity to his character makes the story more than a story of unrequited love. Here I'll say: Yes, it IS about more than being gay; it is about his inability to fully connect to another human. It is about life. In addition to Ledger's performance, Gyllenhaal and Michelle Williams (as Alma Del Mar, Ennis's wife) are stunning in their supporting roles. Williams, in particular, is able to carry an entire scene -- and to convey multiple layers of emotion -- without having to utter a word. She is brilliant in the role and deserves the recognition she is getting.

I walked out of the movie theater, found a huddle of gay men, and said, "Will one of you hug me, please?" It is that powerful. My heart is still aching. Just like any book worth reading is a banned book, any movie worth seeing is a banned movie. Go and see it, okay? FIVE STARS!

(FYI (I just can't stop thinking about this) here's a link to the short story from Barnes & Noble.)


Blogger 'Thought & Humor' said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:04 PM  
Blogger TessaJ said...

Sorry folks that I had to turn on comment moderation -- but it's my blog; I can censor the hate if I want to!

5:23 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Losers. I didn't read the comment, but I'm sorry you had to deal with it!

6:33 AM  
Blogger TessaJ said...

I was actually honored to have inspired the remarks, as strange as that sounds. But I'm not in the mood for that kind of debate. It was just predictably preachy.

11:06 AM  

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