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Overall Rating
4.18

Awesome61.64%
Worth A Look: 13.36%
Just Average: 12.93%
Pretty Crappy: 5.17%
Sucks: 6.9%

17 reviews, 130 user ratings


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Brokeback Mountain
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by PaulBryant

"A landmark film for Hollywood, and its finest love story in years."
5 stars

The makers of Brokeback Mountain are an eclectic bunch. Two Pulitzer Prize winners in Larry “Lonesome Dove” McMurtry and Annie “Shipping News” Proulx helped create the screenplay, which was filmed under the direction of Oscar winner Ang “Crouching Tiger” Lee. This is all very impressive, of course, but then there’s the two young bucks in Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger. Relatively fresh and unproven, the two are thrown into these capable hands and more than hold their own in a superb adaptation of Proulx’s short story. The result is a timeless tribute to the power of love that portrays equal amounts pleasure and pain.

It begins in classic Western style: two cowboys stand across from each other amidst the whirling Wyoming dust, glancing at the other man beneath the brim of his cowboy hat. In another Western, one scoundrel would pull out a harmonica and set the stage to draw guns; but this isn’t really a Western, and the only guns they’ll end up pulling on each other aren’t Smith and Wesson’s. Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal) has arrived in his beat-up pickup in front Joe Aguirre’s (Randy Quaid) trailer, ready to receive the duties of sheep herding, unprepared that the blonde, broken-in Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) will be his partner for the cold months ahead.

A quick shave, a few longer-than-usual glances, and a suggestive pose, suggest Jack may have designs to ride more than just his horse up on Brokeback. Ledger’s Ennis is distant, gruff; a man of few words and a lot of cigarettes. He speaks like Ben Johnson doing Robert De Niro – low, mythic, but mumbling, wounded. Neither of them says a word as Aguirre belts out that the job is for one guy to stay in the Forest Service campground, while the other is to sleep with the sheep to guard them from coyotes. It’s a pep-talk worthy of any grizzled, just-past-middle-aged gym teacher, and allows the two young men to find a preliminary camaraderie in their detest of the boss. Before I go further, this much should be said about Ledger: from the very first second, he owns the picture, and it will be shocking if he doesn’t win an Oscar.

They trot up the lonely countryside as masculine as cigarette-ads, Jack sleeping with the sheep, Ennis at camp cooking beans over the fire. They spend their nights staring off into the clear sky and distant horizon of what is usually referred to as God’s Country, aching from the hours of riding, with a bottle of hard liquor and a pair of wranglers – about the furthest thing possible from the standard Hollywood homosexual. Sleeping with the sheep is too cold and tiring for Jack – forever prone to bellyache – and Ennis offers to take the shift. Jack agrees, but after one cold night of too much whiskey, Ennis ends up sleeping in the camp tent to avoid frostbite. A need for warmth brings the men close together in the night, and then lust throws them into a bout of drunken, rough-and-tumble sex.

The frantic fuck turns out to be anything but a one-time deal, and they carry on their occasionally violent affair for the duration of the job, each man reminding the other, “I ain’t no queer,” to soothe any qualms that they’ve been knocking spurs with an actual homosexual this whole time. Ennis’s pent up frustration about his itinerant life is palpable. He walks as though a heavy magnet were lodged in his diaphragm, pulling the rest of his body in towards itself. Jack is more open and optimistic. He’s as poor as Ennis, but he’s got plans and dreams for the future that he truly believes will work out. This character difference will plague the cowboys from here on in: Jack thinks he can staunch any problem, Ennis thinks he has to wince and bear the pain. After the job is over, they come to the resolution that they can’t go on with their relationship; a decision neither man really wants. True feelings left undeclared, Jack speeds away in his truck, Ennis walks off slowly, and suddenly they’re apart. Proulx’s story describes their pain perfectly: “Ennis felt like someone was pulling his guts out hand over hand one yard at a time”. He keels over, unable to vomit or stay on his feet, crippled by the love he thinks he’s lost forever.

The two go their separate ways and each marries a woman and starts a family. Ennis becomes the picture of domesticity, and we wonder how much the loss of Jack has actually affected him. Four years after their parting Jack sends Ennis a postcard that prompts them to meet again, and we learn how much of Ennis’ mind still lies in that tent up on Brokeback. He puts on his best shirt and waits anxiously by the window the day Jack is due to arrive from Texas, and when he sees him, finally dispenses with the granite exterior, thrusting himself on Jack, kissing him ferociously. From this reawakening of their passion, the two continue a secret affair of infrequent “fishing trips” up in the mountains. Of course, Jack, always the romantic, thinks they could get enough scratch together for a place of their own, but Ennis, paralyzed by his fear of being “queer” and what could come from that, figures they’re stuck with their “two or three high-altitude fucks” per year. His close-mindedness is just as fatal to their love as the society which doesn’t accept them.

The movie brilliantly shows the dire consequences of Jack and Ennis’ suppressed love, not only on their own lives, but on the lives of their wives and children who feel the cold effects of a burden they don’t even know exists. But it does all this without specifically stating the obvious. When the two are alone together, they don’t strut around the mountainside pontificating like a Jane Austen novel about how and why they can never be lovers in a society that sees their union as an abomination. Instead, all is understood with truthful looks and a few sparse words. Jack says: “It could be like this, just you and me, always.” Ennis – less the dreamer – replies with a story from his childhood about a rancher who was brutally murdered because he lived with another man, fatally summing things up: “if you can’t fix it, you gotta stand it.” His line is what some prudent person could have put on his gravestone, had Ennis let anybody other than Jack know that this was his one and only mantra.

Now, I’ve avoided the obvious “controversy” about the film until this point, mainly because I don’t think – living in my little liberal bubble – there is much controversial about it. In Canada, most of us have gotten past the political babblings about homosexuality, other than some wilting conservatives who pretend the US has things figured out for the greater good. Some would call it a “post-gay” society, where polemic conversations need not be had, so that the experiment with true equality can allowed to show it has more value than Focus on the Family could ever fashion from their no-premarital-sex, gays-can-be-cured-with-Jesus, heterosexist wet dream. But the southern neighbors of this ‘post-gay’ society are still mired in a middle ground, accepting homosexuality exists, not accepting it as worthy of marriage, and attaching its Borg-like Collective Brain to the idea that “gay” denotes a limp-wristed fashion expert with exfoliating products and a fauxhawk.

Brokeback, therefore, has been labelled a “gay cowboy movie” by countless folk. But to see this movie and call it a “gay cowboy” film is to have misunderstood its entire objective. We are stuck in a culture that loves to label things; to call people either gay, bi, trans, queer, etc. But Brokeback Mountain boils down love, orientation, sex, and everything else to its bare essentials. Two souls connect. That is what happens; that is why it’s tragic then they’re forced apart. The movie lets sex and love happen because they happen, not because its characters are genetically predetermined to get aroused by a man or a woman – or some such nonsense. To believe that Brokeback is a “gay cowboy movie”, or a homosexual movie made only for a homosexual audience, is as silly as thinking the demographic for the recently released Pride and Prejudice is only 19th century spoiled English brats.

Ang Lee has directed the film in a style as anti-flamboyant as the two main characters, which is the ideal way to craft McMurty and Diana Ossana’s fine script. He allows the movie to fill the spaces between the words of Proulx’s story, capturing the timeless visual beauty of the western landscape with the aid of Rodrigo Prieto’s photography, and composer Gustavo Santaolalla’s simply perfect love theme. Lee’s film is full of silence, and he relishes in the power silence can give to the photographic image, allowing his camera to become the key to their unannounced feelings. As the two talk in front of a flickering fire about their lives growing up, Lee gives Heath a stretch of dialogue in a long shot and then cuts to a close-up of Jake to show his growing infatuation. Then Ledger is the one to get the close-up and the two go on talking, their unspoken attraction captured by Lee’s camera, virtually subverting the dialogue. Seeing as how the two never bluntly declare their love for each other (though it's obvious Jack's line “I wish I knew how to quit you” should actually read, “I wish I knew how to quit loving you”) this visual nuance makes the rest of the story coherent – especially in justification of Heath’s aggressiveness in the early sex scenes. Further, without giving anything away, Lee’s final image is a shot worthy of John Ford – you won’t soon forget it.

So for those living with thick gauze over their eyes and ears, a movie that shows two masculine men kissing, loving, and embracing, may seem controversial. But for the rest of us it is more of an “about time” scenario, and we are glad that one of the fist big Hollywood pictures to treat homosexuality frankly and sophisticatedly is also one of the best of the year.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12764&reviewer=364
originally posted: 12/09/05 13:17:52
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/28/17 Tom Philpott What an absolute load of crap. One of the very worst. Ledger is OVERRATED. 1 stars
10/06/17 Barbara Leaf Very good movie and well acted. Not wordy but emotional. I would see it again. 5 stars
9/13/17 morris campbell good film told with class a good gay film 4 stars
11/14/16 Heather Ackland What a load of crap. Unrealistic and bad gay film in every way. YUK. O/10 1 stars
12/28/11 David Hollingsworth More than just a "gay cowboy" movie. 5 stars
7/25/10 JustMe my favorite movie,it's just amazing,i cry every single time i watch it 5 stars
6/07/10 User Name A daring, and successful, film from Ang Lee. 4 stars
5/16/10 Linda Thank you. I thought I was the only one who felt this way! Cinematography 10; chemistry 2. 2 stars
1/24/10 babette REAL gays: See Irreversible's Le Rectum club scenes 1 stars
8/06/09 Tim Can't even hear the music without the welling of tears. Perfection. 5 stars
6/18/09 steven One of the most amazing films ever... only redneck men don't like it,Wonder why! 5 stars
4/10/09 K. Sear A choppy flow and unrealized plot make a disappointing film. 2 stars
4/04/09 Alfonso Turnage Awesome 5 stars
1/30/09 hardfact gay story about a predator praying on a confused minor 1 stars
1/14/09 FrankNFurter Homophobic twats, perch and rotate...this film is absolutely brilliant! 5 stars
1/07/09 =] i don't support homosexuality, but i still loved this film. 5 stars
11/27/08 little Red Heath Ledger is smoken in this movie 5 stars
11/11/08 L.Padilla They should of titled the movie,"Booty call in Brokeback Mountain" 2 stars
10/30/08 Wendell O. Maness As a former California resident, I loved this gay awareness show 5 stars
8/29/08 PAUL SHORTT LUSH SCENERY ENCIRCLES TWO LACONIC CHARACTERS IN THIS STATIC AND REPUGNANT FILM 1 stars
7/19/08 yes Gayest movie I never saw... I'm certain it sucked major balls... Quite literally. 1 stars
6/28/08 Chris Yeah, bad "aging" make-up. But that's it's only flaw - a beautiful, poignant, moving film. 5 stars
5/14/08 Ros So perfect...so real....so tragic...so unforgettable...so haunting 5 stars
4/27/08 Totir Alexandru I recently saw this movie and after Heath passed away it was very hard to watch it. (RIP) 5 stars
4/02/08 Mr Honest God help our country when this crap is "art"! 1 stars
3/07/08 David Cohen Poignant without being exploitative, a first class love story 5 stars
1/10/08 misty overly vomit producing 1 stars
12/08/07 Sam Eli It's not just the "gay cowboy movie" It's excellently acted, haunting and it resonates 5 stars
11/22/07 Kevin A mountain-top experience! 5 stars
10/23/07 Wendell O. Maness I loved it, its sensitive, manly and loving to gays 5 stars
8/04/07 ravenmad it surprised me~beautiful and sad. It's not about sex. 4 stars
7/16/07 Hello Stranger incredibly depressing film. the love between them is so intense and beautiful 5 stars
6/27/07 gr117 Depressing yet beautiful 5 stars
6/17/07 Danielle Ophelia This film will gut you. And you'll be glad it did. 5 stars
5/24/07 Josh Bergin TThis movie was great for the gay community. 5 stars
5/06/07 David Pollastrini didn't think much of it. 3 stars
2/28/07 THE REAL DEAL Cornelius did all his own stunts 2 stars
2/18/07 Nick Maday I thought it was over-praised, but still decent, if not completely depressing. 3 stars
1/28/07 Lisa Craven OMG. talk about rough sex. But seriously, a touching movie, kind of depressing, but try it. 4 stars
1/22/07 del i love it as much as starwars,especially the men 5 stars
1/17/07 Becca Only people too stupid to get it don't like this film- and that is the truth. 5 stars
11/14/06 Ernest Alba Well, its three Oscars didn't convince me. The movie did. This is an amazing film. 5 stars
11/13/06 Mark A little slow, but a great film 5 stars
9/30/06 tips if it was about man/woman relationship it would have gotten no attention because it sucks 1 stars
9/15/06 rwelsh Gay just a straw man, the offense-A guy who threatens a pregnant girl to live a lie 1 stars
9/06/06 Albert unless you are a woman, I would pass on this one... 1 stars
8/19/06 Verrine Excellent, but not worthy of awards. Gorgeous scenery. 4 stars
8/19/06 Cosmic Conundrum Apart from the direction, acts etc., the background Score and locales took my breath away. 5 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist "Its probably not too bad",says my gut, but I'm sick of hearing about the stupid sex scene! 3 stars
8/04/06 CTT Overpraised; "Same Time Next Year" with the spouses played by actresses 4 stars
7/22/06 chris f this is the most romantic and best film ever 5 stars
6/30/06 Jerry Great movie, unless you have no taste. 5 stars
6/26/06 Kimberly Not a good movie in the least. 1 stars
6/17/06 Dave the truth is out,Film critics were sent big checks along with their invitation to see this 1 stars
6/14/06 Lisa Same as most 'gay' flicks - a complete let down 1 stars
6/11/06 Alex H. Who reads Filmview, anyway? 5 stars
6/08/06 Mitch This is the movie that Filmview magazine calls "awful" and "the worst film of 2005" 1 stars
6/08/06 dani Undeserved praise? Yeah, okay. Fantastic movie. 5 stars
5/28/06 jeanne Profoundly sad, gorgeous, hearbreaking - Bravo, everybody! 5 stars
5/28/06 Jethro This is so awful it makes plan 9 from outer space look like oscar material! 1 stars
5/22/06 Agent Sands A painfully heartfelt film. One of my top favorite love stories ever. 5 stars
5/12/06 Indrid Cold Aside from the undeserved praise just for tackling the subject, it's still pretty good. 4 stars
5/07/06 Diane Perkins excellent both in story and cinematography. Leaves you thinking for days. 5 stars
4/28/06 Annie G I thought I would love this movie, but the casting and editing werejust awful! 3 stars
4/22/06 Phil M. Aficionado brilliantly written and executed in all respects, starting with the casting 5 stars
4/21/06 Pat Frederick Really loved this movie. The storyline, the actors. Tremendous movie! 5 stars
4/16/06 millersxing Made with such dignity from all involved, Brokeback is a difficult film to dislike. 3 stars
4/12/06 San Lamar Good 4 stars
4/10/06 Frank Gavin Not just a "gay cowboy movie," but in fact an "epic gay cowboy movie." 5 stars
4/09/06 the untrained eye Bad aging make-up Mountain 3 stars
4/07/06 malcolm great film. girlfriend made me watch it. glad she did. 5 stars
4/06/06 Troy M. Grzych The film is well crafted and acted, but not Oscar worthy. 4 stars
3/23/06 Saif Khan A beautifully crafted, supremely acted piece of cinema 5 stars
3/14/06 Shannon Robles i could watch this movie again and again, this deserved the oscar! 5 stars
3/12/06 Hydrogen Very nice. Maybe a tad over-rated, but still very touching. 5 stars
3/09/06 Nicole Overrated. I think that explains it all. 2 stars
3/07/06 Piz great filmaking but wayyy overated. Left a lot to be desired 3 stars
3/03/06 Green Gremlin Ang Lee more than atones for his "Hulk" fiasco !!! 5 stars
3/01/06 tillerman this was the best movie i have seen in a long long time 5 stars
3/01/06 chris f biker bob is a fool this movie is great 5 stars
2/26/06 Monday Morning Reviewer Cornelius doesn't get "understated"; he needs car chases.This film was outstanding 5 stars
2/21/06 Danny If this doesn't win the Oscar, something's wrong. Awsome in every way. 5 stars
2/20/06 Max Gay people CAN love, why is gay sex still portayed as 'violent' and 'messy' ?? 5 stars
2/13/06 ana very good film, explains a lot about them (homosexsuals) 5 stars
2/09/06 Shelly Breekinan My heart ached with this film.........a real "ground breaker" Loved it twice! 5 stars
2/06/06 Deanna save "disgrace" for your hero Pat Robertson. This is a love of a movie 5 stars
2/05/06 Richard Watts A subtle masterpiece of visual narrative 5 stars
2/04/06 Shawn Gadberry Too much hype can ruin your viewing-Great movie but very subtle in its powerfulness 5 stars
2/03/06 Lewis Rappaport A superb hearbraking film that accurately portrays its time and place. 5 stars
1/30/06 Agent Sands Perfect. An important contribution to cinema. 5 stars
1/29/06 Caiphn I guess I don't get it. 2 stars
1/28/06 Sam It is better to have loved and lost... 5 stars
1/27/06 D.Lara Awesome film, tear jerker, its a must see! 5 stars
1/24/06 Mel in NY Amazing and quite sad. I loved it! 5 stars
1/21/06 CJ Peace The movie was very good but it lacked a little "something", not sure what. Ledger was great 4 stars
1/21/06 Anita I thought the movie was over-rated. It needed a good editing. 3 stars
1/21/06 Molly I loved it! 5 stars
1/20/06 orpament just not that great 3 stars
1/20/06 paul movie stayed with me for days 5 stars
1/19/06 Howard Maki great story line 5 stars
1/18/06 phillip Wright Brokeback Mountain deserves all of the praises it receives. best film I have ever seen 5 stars
1/18/06 Deanna Heartbreaking Beautiful 5 stars
1/17/06 Nicky LOVE! 5 stars
1/16/06 Agent Sands Ang Lee doesn't let one frame seem dull. This is a true masterwork. 5 stars
1/16/06 Rob Quite simply the most beautiful film to come out of the US in years 5 stars
1/14/06 chris f a great and touching movie 5 stars
1/13/06 Mario Izigson a masterpiece 5 stars
1/13/06 anonymous The reviewer respectfully doesnt get it, but was respectful at least. Wish comment room 5 stars
1/11/06 jcjs beautiful, real, great acting, wow photography, not for the homophobes, fine masterpiece 5 stars
1/11/06 Jim The Movie Freak One of the most overrated films of the past few years. It's just another love story. 3 stars
1/10/06 H.S. not as daring as made out to be, but great 5 stars
1/10/06 Denis Breathtaking, extremely moving 5 stars
1/08/06 Deanna from Indiana touching beautiful, if you cannot relate, you have no heart 5 stars
1/08/06 Florence Awsome, wonderful love story. It stayed with me for days. I will have to see it again. 5 stars
1/08/06 Elizabeth Pretty, poignant. . .unattainable love is relatable to all. 4 stars
1/07/06 Marilyn Loved the movie. We needed a movie like this 5 stars
1/05/06 sc The best movie I've seen this year. Beautiful, moving. 5 stars
1/04/06 Gayle James agree with David Cornelius movie did not have enough 'romance' between the men so who cares 3 stars
1/04/06 Denis How can anyone trust a review that can't even get its own facts right? Alberta, not Wyomin 5 stars
1/01/06 BrianWilly Beautiful movie about a beautiful thing. 5 stars
12/30/05 TheOthersFan heartbreaking, not so terribly different from the tragic starcrossed-lovers romance 5 stars
12/26/05 Daniel Camacho The film speaks for its self, a classic 5 stars
12/24/05 Hoof Hearted Heath's acting, Ang's direction make for the movie of a lifetime 5 stars
12/24/05 Frédéric Jake and Ennis play great roles, just change the names and genders for your own story 5 stars
12/21/05 BoyInTheDesignerBubble Cool flick. Not everyone is in PFLAG. 5 stars
12/21/05 Jonathan emotionally stirring....an amazing film 5 stars
12/19/05 Paterfam001@yahoo.ca How come they couldn't get a little fishing in as well? 3 stars
10/01/05 sbcspin Took the top prize at Venice for a reason. It's amazing. 5 stars
9/19/05 Don Halbert One of the best movies I've seen in years. Genuine characters evoke strong feelings. 4 stars
9/15/05 Skptc2 Tad lengthy 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  09-Dec-2005 (R)
  DVD: 23-Jan-2007

UK
  N/A

Australia
  26-Jan-2006




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