Main cast: Heath Ledger (Ennis Del Mar), Jake Gyllenhaal (Jack Twist), Michelle Williams (Alma Beers Del Mar), Anne Hathaway (Lureen Newsome Twist), Randy Quaid (Joe Aguirre), Linda Cardellini (Cassie Cartwright), Anna Faris (Lashawn Malone), David Harbour (Randall Malone), Roberta Maxwell (Mrs Twist), Peter McRobbie (John Twist), Kate Mara (Alma Del Mar Jr), Scott Michael Campbell (Monroe), and Graham Beckel (LD Newsome)
Director: Ang Lee
This review was written in 2006.
Seven members of the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina are facing charges connected with a military-themed gay porn website. The price of straight men having on-camera sex with other men seems to be about $7,500 dollars in all. Nice thing to know, I guess. The question is: are any of these men really gay or were they role-playing for the cold hard cash? Are they buy-sexual? Is it really all that surprising a story with the military along with prisons, your local public restrooms and any frontier like environments, being isolated and sufficiently boring, are already well documented grey areas of situational homosexuality. Straight men doing nasty things with other guys? Oh my!
These are the questions I ask after all the hype is over – as my other half Jason commented “The fags got done fawning over this movie!” – after all the fingers get pointed and the awards handed out. Why in the hell is Brokeback Mountain, the movie at least, considered a great gay love story? It’s all about two uneducated guys with limited prospects who spend most of the cameras time in straight relationships having kids and doing all those domestic things we all consider pretty dang normal for straight men to do. Sure, they are not all that successful at relationships with the women in their lives as well as their career choices, but that’s nothing new and it sure does not make them gay in my eyes.
Brokeback Mountain is a somewhat slow movie at times showing a 20-year relationship between two ranchers that begins in 1963, and it’s chock full of these small tidbits of interesting moments and real life complexities and consequences. This is definitely a movie to take the time to think about, and not just enjoy for director Ang Lee’s glossy yet gorgeous mountain scenery juxtaposed with the authentic, seedy, poverty stricken small towns with hardened people populating a desolate internal landscape.
I was watching one of the DVD special features about the making of Brokeback Mountain and one of the comments made about creating the screenplay from the original story struck me as this movies greatest weakness. The comment was they took Annie Proulx’s story and fleshed out the domestic parts, they focused on the lives of the men with their wives and the emotional betrayal that took place. Not on the depth of emotions in these men and their feelings for each other or the evolution of their relationship.
This is essentially a gay movie for straight people. The men are played on screen as bisexual men in torment and denial over the whole gay aspect of their feelings for each other. Well, at least Ennis is, Jack is always ready to give in and wants to enjoy their relationship openly. This is still a love that dare not speak it’s name.
Now, admittedly this view I have of the movie is not what is written in the book, due to the internal dialogues there that maps out both men’s feelings on the relationship. Jack Twist is played dead on by Jake Gyllenhaal is the optimistic, aggressive, and most likely homosexual man, and Ennis Del Mar played by Heath Ledger is the uncertain and hands off, most likely bisexual guy. Ennis refuses to give into or admit the feelings he has for Jack Twist till the very end when it’s too late. In the book, this is the literary equivalent of a sucker punch and you come away from reading it with a great deal of tears. It’s also interesting to note that even at the end of the book and the movie, Ennis Del Mar is not gonna go out and suddenly confess his love for another man to all his friends and family, or find some other guy to shack up with like Jack Twist was intending to do.
Ennis Del Mar in the movie does finally accept he was in love with Jack, but not that he is gay. In my opinion, he is still just an unhappy bisexual man who only found real love and real friendship with another man. Is that too fine a point there? I think that is where the real discussion in this movie comes from.
I honestly think that for the most part bisexuality, at least male bisexuality, these days gets used as an excuse by people, some of them real jerks, who are in denial or who have serious issues with being open about who they really are and making commitments to other people based on that knowledge. But in Brokeback Mountain, for the first time cinematically there seems to be a lot of room for real discussions on situational homosexuality. Could Ennis simply be in love with just Jack and in any other case would not have feelings for another man ever? Could this be grounds for that rare but much talked about male bi-sexual event to have occurred and a way of examining that choice?
Oh my. There I go stepping on the line of choice and gay feelings. I believe right here in this movie there is just cause to talk about choices made and denial and what it does to people. What do you think would have been best for these guys and what would most likely the real world outcome have been? I think we as adults should be able to talk about all that no matter how politically incorrect that discussion may be. It’s better than overly simplifying complex human emotions with buzzwords and comic book mentality like using the term “gay cowboy flick”.
Great fiction and great movies leave you asking questions, sometimes uncomfortable questions, and thinking things through on your own. Brokeback Mountain is one of those movies.