Jan 092006

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Based on the E. Annie Proulx story about a forbidden and secretive relationship between two cowboys and their lives over the years. A raw, powerful story of two young men, a Wyoming ranch hand and a rodeo cowboy, who meet in the summer of 1963 sheep herding in the harsh, high grasslands of contemporary Wyoming and form an unorthodox yet life-long bond–by turns ecstatic, bitter and conflicted.

Directed by
Ang Lee

Drama, Romance

Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Randy Quaid, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams, Valerie Planche, Graham Beckel, David Harbour, Kate Mara, Roberta Maxwell, Peter McRobbie, Anna Faris, Linda Cardellini, Scott Michael Campbell, David Trimble

Lay and I went with our friends Jeff and Mike to see this movie Sunday night. I guess there’s lots to write about here. First, I’d like to get some comments out of the way about where we saw the movie. The only theater showing the movie in Tampa was the Tampa Theatre. The Tampa Theatre opened in downtown Tampa in October of 1925. It’s a gorgeous old theatre with one of those great old “Mighty Wurlitzer” organs, and we were treated to a short concert on the Wurlitzer prior to the movie. The Theatre is the primary venue for the Tampa Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and a number of Gay Men’s Chorus concerts have been held there over the years. There is much I love about the grandeur of this place, but watching a movie there really sucks. These are original seats (for some reason, those involved in its restoration must have thought them to be charming). For a big guy like me, they are WAY too small, and even Lay says they make his back hurt. But the worst part of the experience is that the sound in the theatre is exceptionally bad. Given that most of the dialog in the movie was spoken quietly (and a lot mumbled by Heath Ledger), we missed a lot of it. It was simply not understandable. It is also showing at Baywalk in St. Petersburg, and we should have gone to see it there, and perhaps we will. With that, I’ll conclude the rant about the Tampa Theatre.

As others have touched on, Brokeback Mountain is so much more than merely a “gay cowboy movie”. It perfectly captures what true, unbridled love is all about and this love transcends any issues of sexuality or gender. “Love is a force of nature”. Unfortunately for many people and indeed the protagonists of our story, society doesn’t always view it that way. Kudos to Ang Lee who has not shied away from the material at all. This adaptation stays true to the original short story and the two lead actors fit the roles perfectly.

Ledger and Gyllenhaal give incredibly strong performances but the supporting cast shouldn’t be overlooked either, particularly a somewhat unrecognizable Michelle Williams. Solid work all around and with Mr Ang Lee’s vision they have created an amazing piece of cinema that should not be missed by anybody.

Without giving anything away, you are going to be moved by this one. Heath Ledger gives the better performance of the two, but not by much, I’d say. Probably important because he’s the main character. Absolutely impressive and deserving of an Oscar nod. Jake is also incredible, sweet, nuanced, loving. He had the difficult part of being essentially the “love interest” rather than the main character. And the subject matter is treated fairly and with compassion. The script was wonderfully structured.

The portrayal of the wives is also fair and compassionate. Michelle Williams was the portrait of vulnerability. And Anne Hathaway was great in a limited role – loved the hair. But I warn you – the ending will likely make most people cry. Very heart-breaking. But ultimately a very satisfying and moving movie experience. It will be unsettling to some I suppose, but really does tell a grand story. And it is a well told story regardless of the story line.

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