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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 13.36%
Average: 12.93%
Pretty Bad: 5.17%
Total Crap: 6.9%

17 reviews, 130 user ratings

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Brokeback Mountain
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by Jay Seaver

"Just flat-out good."
5 stars

"Brokeback Mountain" is a remarkable film, and I expect it will remain one even after its notoriety passes. There will come a time, twenty years or so from now, when love stories involving two men will appear in theaters unremarked upon, and when that time comes, I think this film will still be remembered as more than one of the first movies to focus on two men in love to solidly enter the mainstream consciousness; it will be remembered as a being noteworthy even outside the cultural context of 2005 America.

It focuses, as most probably know by now, on two cowboys who find themselves attracted to each other while herding sheep on an isolated mountain in 1963 Wyoming. Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) is an orphan and man of few words and little formal education; he dropped out of high school after a year to start working. He's due to get married in the fall. Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) is more gregarious, preferring rodeos to ranching. Over the course of the summer, mostly isolated from the world except for weekly grocery deliveries and an encounter with another flock, they grow close, and their relationship makes the jump from camaraderie to the physical when drink and weather prompts them to share the tent.

The job ends. Time passes. Ennis marries Alma (Michelle Williams), and they have two daughters. Jack eventually meets Lureen Newsome (Anne Hathaway), marries her, going to work for her father and fathering a son of his own. He's still clearly looking at other guys, but Ennis doesn't seem to be. One could almost think Ennis had just been lonely on the mountaintop until Jack passes through town and suddenly Ennis is all over Jack before having time to think it might be a good idea to get where Alma can't accidentally see them. She does, but keeps quiet; it poisons their marriage, especially once Ennis and Jack get in the habit of meeting each other for "fishing trips" every few months.

That moment Ennis and Jack embrace after a four year absence comes, what, a half hour into the movie but it's the most important scene. The recklessness of it is passionate and alarming; at that moment it stops being this abstract gay-cowboy movie and about these two. It suddenly becomes heartfelt and real, but this is also when we see that their lives have changed since the summer they spent herding sheep. Before, their love was dangerous because it meant being ostracized or threatened; now, they've also got the quite conventional problem of potentially hurting the people who love them.

One thing that director Ang Lee and screenwriters Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana (working from an Annie Proulx short story) do is show time passing. The film opens with a title card indicating it's April 1963, but the jumps forward (eventually arriving in 1983) tend to be introduced by a date being mentioned on a radio or television in the background. One thing that's thankfully avoided is the use of noticeable old-age makeup; Ledger and Gyllenhaal look a little older than nineteen at the start and don't quite seem to be pushing forty at the end, but the actors show the burden of experience. Even as they stay much the same, the background changes - it's initially kind of jarring to see Linda Cardellini, done up in seventies hair and fashions, flirting with Ledger's character after having mostly seen him in very Norman Rockwell-esque environs. At least four young actresses play Ennis's daughter Alma Jr., but casting has matched them well enough to make her a singular character. I also like how Ennis's second daughter, Jenny, sort of disappears midway through the movie, suggesting but not explicitly stating that the girls found out why their parents' marriage failed and that Alma Jr. is more forgiving than Jenny.

Ledger and Gyllenhaal have to carry the first half-hour or so of the movie by themselves, and it's almost surprising how well they're up to the task. Jake Gyllenhaal has the flashier part as Jack, and it's trickier that it looks - he gets to shout and run his mouth and kind of give off a vibe, but he's not ever allowed to be flamboyant in a way that would shout "gay" out of this context. Ledger, on the other hand, is given a much deeper closet. He speaks in at-times incomprehensible mumble that indicates both a rugged man-of-few-words masculinity and guardedness. There's something in his past that keeps him from pushing his luck like Jack - compare a Thanksgiving dinner where Jack explodes at his father-in-law with the guilt and shame Ennis seems to feel around his daughters.

Though Ledger and Gyllenhaal are the stars, the rest of the cast is rock-solid. In fact, it's Michelle Williams as Alma who actually makes your heart break. She's the one who gets dumped on with very little to do about it, and her reactions are a perfectly-performed mix of sadness, anger, and incomprehension. She's come a long way in the past few years, from being "the other girl on Dawson's Creek", to seeming out of place in The Station Agent, to being among the best parts of this and The Baxter. Anne Hathaway doesn't get quite so meaty a role - this is more Ennis's story than Jack's, anyway, we mostly see her grow distant, retreating into a cold beauty. She's initially just as exuberant as Gyllenhaal, so we notice this and it almost makes us dislike her: She's the wronged party, but we'd rather see her Lureen act on it like Alma does.

A lot of talent shows up for just a few scenes. Randy Quaid is in his close-cropped hardass mode here, as the domineering owner of the livestock Ennis and Jack tend. Linda Cardellini shows up in the 1970s as a waitress who takes an interest in the lonely Ennis, with David Harbour taking an interest in Jack (Anna Faris is his spazz of a wife, a characterization she's really nailed by now). Kate Mara is the last actress to play Alma Jr., and while she doesn't really resemble the younger girls who had played the role, she gets a great scene with Ledger (as does the prior actress, Cheyenne Hill).

[i}Brokeback Mountain is longer than typical, especially for a story that does not have a particularly large cast of characters, but there aren't many minutes that don't work, and work extremely well. The half-hour we spend just getting to know Jack and Ennis at the beginning is important; it not only lets us get to know them, but it establishes their blue-collar credentials and prevents any gay stereotypes from entering our heads. The cinematography is exceptionally beautiful on its own, but it also emphasizes how Jack and Ennis can only be their true, natural selves when they get away from settled places, and other people. Ennis gets more palpably tense the more he's constrained; the trailer park he inhabits toward the end feels like a prison. Lee hasn't really made a Western here, despite the film occasionally being described as one, but he knows how to use the American (or Canadian, as the case may be) West to communicate freedom and both the joy and danger of being outside the reach of law and standards.

That's why "Brokeback Mountain" is an exceptional movie, and possibly a great one. It's made by people who not only have something to say, but wit hthe craftsmanship to say it in a way that doesn't rely on rattling the audience. That's why this film will be remembered well after the jokes of the past six months are forgotten.

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originally posted: 03/23/06 15:38:24
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/29/17 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
11/15/16 Heather Ackland What a load of crap. Unrealistic and bad gay film in every way. YUK. O/10 1 stars
12/29/11 David Hollingsworth More than just a "gay cowboy" movie. 5 stars
7/26/10 JustMe my favorite movie,it's just amazing,i cry every single time i watch it 5 stars
6/08/10 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
1/25/10 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
6/19/09 steven One of the most amazing films ever... only redneck men don't like it,Wonder why! 5 stars
4/11/09 K. Sear A choppy flow and unrealized plot make a disappointing film. 2 stars
4/05/09 Alfonso Turnage Awesome 5 stars
1/31/09 hardfact gay story about a predator praying on a confused minor 1 stars
1/15/09 FrankNFurter Homophobic twats, perch and rotate...this film is absolutely brilliant! 5 stars
1/08/09 =] 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
7/19/08 yes Gayest movie I never saw... I'm certain it sucked major balls... Quite literally. 1 stars
6/29/08 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 haunting 5 stars
4/28/08 Totir Alexandru I recently saw this movie and after Heath passed away it was very hard to watch it. (RIP) 5 stars
4/03/08 Mr Honest God help our country when this crap is "art"! 1 stars
3/08/08 David Cohen Poignant without being exploitative, a first class love story 5 stars
1/11/08 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
10/24/07 Wendell O. Maness I loved it, its sensitive, manly and loving to gays 5 stars
8/05/07 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
6/28/07 gr117 Depressing yet beautiful 5 stars
6/18/07 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
5/07/07 David Pollastrini didn't think much of it. 3 stars
3/01/07 THE REAL DEAL Cornelius did all his own stunts 2 stars
2/19/07 Nick Maday I thought it was over-praised, but still decent, if not completely depressing. 3 stars
1/29/07 Lisa Craven OMG. talk about rough sex. But seriously, a touching movie, kind of depressing, but try it. 4 stars
1/23/07 del i love it as much as starwars,especially the men 5 stars
1/18/07 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
11/14/06 Mark A little slow, but a great film 5 stars
10/01/06 tips if it was about man/woman relationship it would have gotten no attention because it sucks 1 stars
9/16/06 rwelsh Gay just a straw man, the offense-A guy who threatens a pregnant girl to live a lie 1 stars
9/07/06 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
8/10/06 Dragon The Artist "Its probably not too bad",says my gut, but I'm sick of hearing about the stupid sex scene! 3 stars
8/05/06 CTT Overpraised; "Same Time Next Year" with the spouses played by actresses 4 stars
7/23/06 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
6/27/06 Kimberly Not a good movie in the least. 1 stars
6/18/06 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
6/12/06 Alex H. Who reads Filmview, anyway? 5 stars
6/09/06 Mitch This is the movie that Filmview magazine calls "awful" and "the worst film of 2005" 1 stars
6/09/06 dani Undeserved praise? Yeah, okay. Fantastic movie. 5 stars
5/29/06 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
5/23/06 Agent Sands A painfully heartfelt film. One of my top favorite love stories ever. 5 stars
5/13/06 Indrid Cold Aside from the undeserved praise just for tackling the subject, it's still pretty good. 4 stars
5/08/06 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
4/22/06 Pat Frederick Really loved this movie. The storyline, the actors. Tremendous movie! 5 stars
4/17/06 millersxing Made with such dignity from all involved, Brokeback is a difficult film to dislike. 3 stars
4/13/06 San Lamar Good 4 stars
4/11/06 Frank Gavin Not just a "gay cowboy movie," but in fact an "epic gay cowboy movie." 5 stars
4/10/06 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
3/15/06 Shannon Robles i could watch this movie again and again, this deserved the oscar! 5 stars
3/13/06 Hydrogen Very nice. Maybe a tad over-rated, but still very touching. 5 stars
3/10/06 Nicole Overrated. I think that explains it all. 2 stars
3/08/06 Piz great filmaking but wayyy overated. Left a lot to be desired 3 stars
3/04/06 Green Gremlin Ang Lee more than atones for his "Hulk" fiasco !!! 5 stars
3/02/06 tillerman this was the best movie i have seen in a long long time 5 stars
3/02/06 chris f biker bob is a fool this movie is great 5 stars
2/27/06 Monday Morning Reviewer Cornelius doesn't get "understated"; he needs car chases.This film was outstanding 5 stars
2/22/06 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
2/14/06 ana very good film, explains a lot about them (homosexsuals) 5 stars
2/10/06 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
2/05/06 Shawn Gadberry Too much hype can ruin your viewing-Great movie but very subtle in its powerfulness 5 stars
2/04/06 Lewis Rappaport A superb hearbraking film that accurately portrays its time and place. 5 stars
1/31/06 Agent Sands Perfect. An important contribution to cinema. 5 stars
1/30/06 Caiphn I guess I don't get it. 2 stars
1/29/06 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
1/25/06 Mel in NY Amazing and quite sad. I loved it! 5 stars
1/22/06 CJ Peace The movie was very good but it lacked a little "something", not sure what. Ledger was great 4 stars
1/22/06 Anita I thought the movie was over-rated. It needed a good editing. 3 stars
1/22/06 Molly I loved it! 5 stars
1/21/06 orpament just not that great 3 stars
1/20/06 paul movie stayed with me for days 5 stars
1/20/06 Howard Maki great story line 5 stars
1/19/06 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
1/18/06 Nicky LOVE! 5 stars
1/17/06 Agent Sands Ang Lee doesn't let one frame seem dull. This is a true masterwork. 5 stars
1/17/06 Rob Quite simply the most beautiful film to come out of the US in years 5 stars
1/15/06 chris f a great and touching movie 5 stars
1/14/06 Mario Izigson a masterpiece 5 stars
1/14/06 anonymous The reviewer respectfully doesnt get it, but was respectful at least. Wish comment room 5 stars
1/12/06 jcjs beautiful, real, great acting, wow photography, not for the homophobes, fine masterpiece 5 stars
1/12/06 Jim The Movie Freak One of the most overrated films of the past few years. It's just another love story. 3 stars
1/11/06 H.S. not as daring as made out to be, but great 5 stars
1/11/06 Denis Breathtaking, extremely moving 5 stars
1/09/06 Deanna from Indiana touching beautiful, if you cannot relate, you have no heart 5 stars
1/09/06 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
1/08/06 Marilyn Loved the movie. We needed a movie like this 5 stars
1/06/06 sc The best movie I've seen this year. Beautiful, moving. 5 stars
1/05/06 Gayle James agree with David Cornelius movie did not have enough 'romance' between the men so who cares 3 stars
1/05/06 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
12/27/05 Daniel Camacho The film speaks for its self, a classic 5 stars
12/25/05 Hoof Hearted Heath's acting, Ang's direction make for the movie of a lifetime 5 stars
12/25/05 Frédéric Jake and Ennis play great roles, just change the names and genders for your own story 5 stars
12/22/05 BoyInTheDesignerBubble Cool flick. Not everyone is in PFLAG. 5 stars
12/21/05 Jonathan emotionally amazing film 5 stars
12/20/05 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
9/20/05 Don Halbert One of the best movies I've seen in years. Genuine characters evoke strong feelings. 4 stars
9/16/05 Skptc2 Tad lengthy 4 stars
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  09-Dec-2005 (R)
  DVD: 23-Jan-2007



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