PSA: Brokeback Mountain (2005), or To Be Loved

15 01 2009
Damn it, its cold out here. If only there was someone to cuddle up with...

"Damn it, it's cold out here. If only there was someone to cuddle up with..."

THE PSA!!! Welcome, one and all, to my own personal public service announcement. Today we’re going to talk about the infamous gay cowboy movie, Brokeback Mountain, but before that I’d like to make a confession. When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I laughed out loud in the theater. It was quite embarrassing for everyone involved. Now, mind you, it wasn’t because I thought the premise was dumb or anything, but for a split second I thought that it might have been a joke. I had never seen a movie really where two big-name actors had done such a thing. It just wasn’t done without some dark undertone or some tongue-in-cheek added in the story, as if to soften the blow for the rest of America. It was just hard for me to process that in a film two men could be gay because they were in love. But now I look at it as one of the better motion pictures to come out of our country this millennium.

I think we’re all well aware of the story, but for the few left who don’t know, here goes. Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar are two ranch-hands living in Wyoming in 1963. The movie begins with them applying for the same work; herding sheep for the summer. They both get the job, and are sent to a lonesome trail on Brokeback Mountain to where the sheep are. Along the way they start opening up to each other, talking about their experiences at other ranches and a little about their private lives. They are in complete isolation, so a real bond forms between the two. One night a biting wind comes through the mountain and forces the two to share a tent together. At first nothing happens. But Jack starts kissing the nape of Ennis’s neck and one thing leads to another and…

Now that’s only part of it, but I hate spoilers almost as much as I hate not spoiling something for somebody. Suffice to say that it is a very natural storyline, and for your first time watching it, it is something best left for discovery and not discussion.

This is a real love story. If you are a fan of romance, this is romance of the highest echelon. It is a wistful story of love that could never be, and how even the test of time cannot completely sever the bonds of passion. It does a wonderful job showing us that we are not that different, homosexuals and heterosexuals. And you might think that is easy for me to say, considering I am all for gay marriage and gay rights, but we all have our prejudices. It is just a matter of breaking down the barriers to see that love is the same for both of us, gay and straight, and that at some point we all want it, need it, and should have it.

What a cast on this bill! You have Heath Ledger as Ennis and Jake Gyllenhaal as Jack, as well as Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway as the women in their complex lives. When I first heard about this film, and even when I first saw the movie, I thought these actors were perhaps a bit sub-par. I was blinded by their age and their big Hollywood status, I think, because I have since changed my opinion on this second viewing. These are deep performances by performers who still may not have hit their prime, but draw from such raw talent as many denizens of Hollywood will never know. Heath Ledger in particular shines. His eyes are so hurt, so wounded, that they take on a dogged and indefferent quality midway through the film. There is such a sadness to it that I wept for him in a scene where nothing was happening to him. I felt him, and anyone who has suffered upon life’s barbed, unjust wheel will feel for him as well.

But let’s not forget the amazing crew! Ang Lee does a masterful job. His eyes are trained on such breathtaking shots that you just feel dwarfed at times by the sheer human drama. The veteran cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto creates amazing vistas, especially on the eponymous mountain (Fun fact, he is also a Mexican gigolo in one scene. Nice!). And the score by Gustavo Santolalla is sparse in the film, a brilliant artistic choice I think, but it fills your heart when it is there. We are talking about an all-star team of pros creating something very human, very wonderful. This is good craftsmanship.

So don’t be afraid, guys and gals. Go watch this movie. It is a timeless picture that proves that love knows no bounds. You won’t be any less of a man or woman for watching something like this. I won’t judge you, and neither should you. In the end we’re all human, and emotions are the universal language between us. Watch it and you might even learn something about yourself. I give Brokeback Mountain 9 love-struck cowboys out of 10. A high recommendation!!!

See you tomorrow where we explore sexuality again in Belle de Jour! Until then!!!