Bareback Mountain

by Alan Rapp on December 30, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Brokeback Mountain
  • IMDB: link

brokeback-mountain-poster

Brokeback Mountain seems to be this year’s belle of the ball garnering seven Golden Globe nominations.  Is it the best film of the year?  No, but it’s pretty darn good.  Garnering huge attention for it’s detailed look at the secret homosexual relationship between two cowboys Ang Lee gives us an intriguing tale that just like Heath Ledger’s character desperately wants to say more than it is knows how to.

The story involves the secret relationship of Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) which begins one summer as the two cowboys herd sheep up on Brokeback Mountain.  A physical relationship develops between the two that picks up years later as both men have moved on with their lives, settled down and married.  On fishing trips back to Brokeback the two bask in the joy of being together knowing that the outside world will never accept them and they can only truly be together on the mountain.

The film has some great performances.  I particularly enjoyed Michelle Williams as Ledger’s wife who lives with the knowledge that the friendship between her husband and Jack is something much more.  Gyllenhaal gives a good performance as Jack Twist the more interesting and complex of the two characters.  Ledger’s mumbling soft spoken performance has more memorable moments but is also quite uneven due to the script’s inadequacies.  Anne Hathaway and Randy Quaid round out the cast in fine but rather forgetable performances.

My problems with the film are almost all story choices and plot points.  Williams character is allowed to witness Ledger and Gyllenhaal in a romantic moment very early, in fact only seconds after they have been reunited for the first time in years.  Although it is an interesting and shocking moment that does quite a bit for her character it creates some plot issues.  She finds out so early that she is saddled with the knowledge as years pass and doesn’t do a thing.  Even when she eventually confronts her husband she never admits to actually seeing the two together years before.  The story can’t decide if she’s the strong women who ignores it and tries to forget or the angry and scorned wife that can’t live with it.  That she holds the secret as her husband goes off on trip after trip with his friend and only admits to the truth later without any significant reason or plot point is a serious flaw in the film

Another problem I have with the movie is the unwillingness of either character to be gay in secret or in public.  The movie gets the feel of the harsh attitudes to homosexuality in this era, but fails to address the emotional ones that characters live with day to day.  The movie instead puts each in a marriage with a woman they love and who they fulfill sexually and produce offspring with.  The film skitters around the issue of homosexuality in many such ways throughout the film by having them not be too gay for the motion picture audience. 

The love story works well except for the initial love scene that seems forced and is closer to prison sex and more about two horny guys on a mountain than any lasting relationship.  If the story had been about lust the scene would have worked fine, but although the relationship between the two characters is quite beautiful it’s rather hurriedly setup and somewhat ill-conceived.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the film, I did.  It’s a beautifully shot and well directed and filled with good performances.  Despite my problems with certain plot points and the films unwillingness to stay with the relationship it creates I would still recommend it as a film people should see.  The film’s message about how you can’t control who you love and how that can in many was destroy other parts of your life is a strong one that is carried out well by the cast.  It’s an emotionally powerful film that has some surprisingly tender moments.

Maybe I had too high hopes for Brokeback Mountain.  I didn’t get quite what I expected.  Aside with some plot issues I enjoyed the film and the performances about the secret relationship and how many lives it affected and the film’s message that you can’t help who you fall in love with.  I just wish it had a little more heart and another script revision.  Still what we get is quite good and on occasion extremely good and worth checking out.

Previous post:

Next post: