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Overall Rating
4.19

Awesome61.9%
Worth A Look: 13.42%
Average: 12.99%
Pretty Bad: 5.19%
Total Crap: 6.49%

17 reviews, 129 user ratings


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Brokeback Mountain
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by Todd LaPlace

"Genuinely the best movie of 2005."
5 stars

To be perfectly honest, I’m not happy with my own review of “Brokeback Mountain.” Then again, I’m not really happy with anyone’s review of it. Like cheesy horror movies, there are some pictures that just defy the critical procedure, but unlike those other movies, “Brokeback’s” defiance is a happy one. No matter what I say, no matter how much I gush, I will never do justice to just how perfectly beautiful this movie is. One of my notes reads, “Ennis kisses his kid, hands her off to the wife and heads off for a weekend of sex with Jack.” I think it’s a pretty funny notion, but even that comedic simplicity loses its zing if you haven’t yet seen the film. If that is the case and you’re one of the few that hasn’t seen it, what’s wrong with you? Stop reading and go right now. It’s just that good. (But please come back and finish reading this review when the movie’s over, okay? Thanks.)

Bouncing around the festival circuit and the movie-obsessed portion of the Internet for about a year, “Brokeback Mountain” quickly became known as the “gay cowboy” movie, a derivative label that has since gotten chastised for being too limited. Neither Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) nor Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) can definitively be called gay — or technically even cowboys — and to label them as such diminishes the story’s intricate complexities. Consequently, professional and armchair critics alike began calling it “just another love story,” which I guess was supposed to counteract the previous branding; it’s not a gay movie, it’s just a movie. But this new characterization is something of an enigma, as it attempts to distance itself from the first, but results in the same faulty, narrow-sighted view of the movie. Part of “Brokeback Mountain’s” strength is that it is not a traditional love cinematic love story. The fact that it stars two men in love matters. This is not a Kate Hudson movie.

Part of the reason it’s notable to distinguish this movie from traditional love stories is because at any point, this taboo romance could have real dire consequences. In the typical romance, the only dangers are a broken heart and possibly an honorable sword to the gullet in a medieval dual for the noble maiden’s affections. In “Brokeback Mountain,” Ennis tells the story of two Wyoming men peacefully “living together” in the countryside until one wound up at the bottom of a ditch. If Ennis and Jack’s relationship are discovered by the wrong people, they face a brutal, roughneck beating, potentially to death.

But despite the awareness of such dangers, the two actually do start something on the cold title mountain. Hired by a local farmer (Randy Quaid) to do grunt work with his grazing flock of sheep, Ennis and Jack spend much of the first act sharing silence. With the exception of the occasional shot at a hungry coyote, nothing much “happens.” This isn’t the kind of romance movie with wacky pitfalls and kooky best friends. Co-writers Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana have scripted a quiet, subdued, snails-pace film that just has the two protagonists drink whisky, eat way too many beans and very rarely, wax poetic about their shared childhood misery, all of which comes before the start of anything physical. It isn’t until the cold Wyoming weather gives them a big shove that the two share a tent and a little bit more.

A great deal of credit for the film’s success is owed to director Ang Lee. He takes the time to let the film — and its cinematically-uncommon romance — build. After all the media fuss, the audience knows the two will eventually have sex, but Lee is in no rush to get there. Instead, he allows minutes to wordlessly pass and a friendship to effortlessly build. Known more for his visuals than his storytelling skills (“Hulk’s” biggest fault was a weak story, not Lee’s direction), it comes as no surprise that the first sexual act seems simultaneously violent and beautiful. It isn’t a case of someone being used or a drunken groping between friends — there is tenderness to it, even as the two men get rough. Because the film is dealing with a controversial social issue, it was so important that the film not come off as either a martyr for the cause of gay rights or just another self-serving movie strictly for the gay crowd, both of which would have been easy to make. There are so many otherwise excellent movies — “The Broken Hearts Club” and “Better than Chocolate” being two good examples — that are ruined because they throw themselves on the gay pride sword. The characters lives revolve around being gay, instead of acknowledging it just as another part of their personality. “Brokeback Mountain” isn’t about shoving rainbow flags down the throats of the masses, which should ultimately make it more successful as a method of social change.

Leaving the mountain at the end of the season, Ennis and Jack depart and lead their separate lives. Ennis quickly marries sweetheart Alma (Michelle Williams), knocks her up twice and starts working odd jobs to support his family. Having unsuccessfully tried to return to Brokeback — and Ennis — the following year, Jack starts a rather ineffective rodeo career, meeting and marrying Lureen (Anne Hathaway). But even in their long-lasting separation, they remain oddly connected, as after four years, they begin stealing away from their wives to return to the mountain for naked “fishing” trips.

I honestly feel sorry for Gyllenhaal and Hathaway, as they are assured to get buried beneath their more compellingly written counterparts. From the beginning, it’s Jack that wants to start a relationship, homophobic precedence be damned. Ennis is the one that expends the energy in his internal struggle. He knows he’s more in love with Jack than Alma, but society mandates he live the normal life of husband and father. No matter how good Gyllenhaal is (and he does a fine job), even a decent performance from Ledger would be considered extraordinary, based solely on how detailed and introverted the role was written.

The same situation places Williams in higher regard than Hathaway. Lureen convinces Jack to move to Texas with her to work at her father’s farm equipment business, but that’s about as deeply as she figures into this movie. Lureen — and consequently, Hathaway herself — is a non-entity; she coldly exists to provide Jack a legitimate front and an excuse to continue pursuing a relationship with Ennis. Williams’ Alma gets a little more depth by being around when Jack first returns to Wyoming to visit Ennis. After four years, Ennis is a little too eager to rekindle the old flame, accidentally alerting Alma to her husband’s double life. She too is forced to deal with the ramifications of her husband’s unthinkable secret, especially in 1960s Wyoming, and Williams pulls it off with understated grace. With her recent string of underappreciated indie gems — “The Baxter,” “Imaginary Heroes,” “The Station Agent” — Williams is quickly becoming one of those go-to actresses that always delivers a strong performance, and it’s nice to finally see her get some recognition for Alma, her most nuanced and meaty role yet. There are little moments of brilliance — like the looks of fear and awe Alma gives Ennis when he beats up two swearing bikers at a Fourth of July fireworks display — that speak volumes without overpowering the main narrative.

Coming in at more than two hours, the film asks for a hefty chunk of time, commitment and sustained emotions. After all, Lee’s not exactly known for his lightening moments of comic relief. The film, with its constant state of heartache and sorrow, really began to stretch at the end, however, when it seemingly refused to end. The credits could have rolled in three or four different spots, and the film would have concluded on a satisfying note. The same issue was constantly discussed a few years ago with Peter Jackson’s “Return of the King,” the final installment of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. It drug on for an extra half hour, which was ultimately about nothing and nearly ended up killing the whole series. By the time the credits actually ran on “Brokeback Mountain,” 15 or 20 minutes after the first conclusion, I was honestly sad to see them come. I was so mesmerized by this tragic tale, that every time the screen faded back in, I wanted to get up and do an embarrassing little jig right in the theater. Even with all of the hype adding pressure to the film, I was still astonished just how marvelous one little film could be.

Every year there seems to be one of those indie movies that gets praised to death at the festivals, so by the time it gets a wide release, critics take pleasure in ridiculing it for not meeting the hype. It happened to “Lost in Translation.” It happened to “Sideways.” It happened to “Brokeback Mountain.” It’s a shame because even if they think the films are a little more pedestrian than they hoped (none of these are though; they’re all fantastic), all of these vastly superior to so much of the gunk drudged out by Hollywood. I’d take an over-hyped indie movie over an overblown studio picture any day, especially when they’re as genuinely good as this one.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12764&reviewer=401
originally posted: 02/06/06 19:01:17
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

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
8/30/08 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
6/29/08 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 perfect...so real....so tragic...so unforgettable...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 stirring....an amazing film 5 stars
12/20/05 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
9/20/05 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
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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