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Movie Review: Brokeback Mountain
Reviewed by Sam Bear of JoeCritic.Com
Stars (Out of 10): 5
One Word Summary: Dull
“Brokeback Mountain” is the story of two young men, a Texas rodeo cowboy and a Wyoming ranch-hand, who meet and fall in love in the summer of 1963. Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) dreams of the two moving onto his parent’s farm together, though he knows society will never allow it. Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) is the more realistic of the two; although his marriage is far from perfect, he knows that the two can never share the life that they both wish for. Instead, Ennis and Jack live completely separate and often tragic lives, interrupted by brief moments of joy, usually shared near the site of their original meeting: Brokeback Mountain.
Let’s get this straight (pun not intended) right off the bat; “Brokeback Mountain” is a love story first and foremost. Yes, the love is shared between two men, but the idea is the same one that’s been used for countless heterosexual romances: two people love each other, but for whatever reason, they can’t be together. It’s “When Harry Met Sally” without the comedy or “Casablanca” without the war. Straight men will hate this movie as much as they hate any other “chick flick.” The fact that it’s about two men is almost irrelevant because the film is about being apart and not being together (plus, there are two scenes involving female nudity as opposed to only one male sex scene… not that I was counting).
“Brokeback Mountain” is going to win Oscars. It’s the kind of movie critics love: the story is controversial, the direction is terrific, the actors went outside their usual roles, and the dialogue is sparse. All of that being said, nothing makes up for the fact that it’s borrrrrrrrrrrring.
Ang Lee, who last directed the epic (and dull) superhero flick “The Hulk”, presents a stunning film filled with incredible landscapes and visuals. Unfortunately, like Sophia Coppola in “Lost in Translation,” Lee uses these visuals to compensate for an overall lack of depth to the film and its characters.
Annie Proulx’s short story, on which “Brokeback Mountain” is based, is only 64 pages long. How can a full length motion picture be made from such a short, short story? What dialogue “Brokeback Mountain” does contain is beautifully written, but this isn’t the type of story that can be told telepathically. There are two kinds of westerns: the shoot-em up westerns (see John Wayne) and the let the setting tell the story westerns (see “All the Pretty Horses”). “Brokeback Mountain” would fall into the latter category, except that it’s not a western. It’s a love story set in the west.
Granted I don’t share either trait necessary to fully identify with the main characters of this film as I’m neither gay nor a cowboy, but I’m not a 25-foot ape and I could still identify with King Kong. It’s hard to find either character truly likable, and although we root for them to end up together, we know from the beginning that it’s not going to happen. So what’s the point?
Heath Ledger is getting most of the pen for his performance as Del Mar, but the true standout of the two actors is Jake Gyllenhaal, who in my mind already deserved Oscar recognition for his performance in “Jarhead.” Gyllenhaal captures the manliness of his character as well as his vulnerability. Ledger’s performance verges on being a bad impersonation of Clint Eastwood in “Unforgiven.”
And a quick note to the make-up department: when you’re trying to make someone look older, there are better ways to do it then to give the character bushier sideburns. Thanks.
The Bottom Line is that this is a weak year for Best Picture contenders and “Brokeback Mountain” is being oversold. While it might be a good film through the well-trained and well-rested eye, it’s a bore and a drag through almost any other.