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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 Tom Ciorciari

"Young cowboys in love (with one another)."
3 stars

In 1963 two young cowboys spend a season on brokeback Mountain, Wyoming, tending sheep and, ultimately, falling in love. For the next fifteen or so years they must learn to incorporate this forbidden relationship into their other, “closeted” lives – maneuvering around wives, family and career. Given the considerable talents involved, one would have expected a film that wasn’t quite so... conventional.

Hewing closely to Annie Proulx’s brief (58 pages) novella, screenwriters Larry McMurtry (The Last Picture Show, Lonesome Dove) and Diana Ossana leave a lot of breathing room to be filled. In the first section of the film, which details how cowboys-for-hire Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) are thrown together by fate, in the unlikely personage of rancher Joe Aguirre (Randy Quaid), who sends them up to Brokeback with a thousand head of sheep to herd and a lot of downtime for male bonding, director Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; The Hulk) lets his camera sweep languidly across fields and mountainsides, creating a palpable sense of wide open spaces and beatific quietude, while evoking (almost to the point of blatant imitation) Terrence Malick’s (Days Of Heaven, Thin Red LIne) tableaux style. The boys go about their chores amiably enough and one cold night share a tent with unexpected results. Unexpected due, in no small part, to the complete lack of legitimate dramatic build-up to this moment. There is not one look, be it furtive or lingering, between Ennis and Jack prior to this moment that would indicate any simmering sexual attraction between these men. If, for all the filmmaker’s protests to the contrary, this film were not known as the “gay cowboy movie”, this development (and the only dramatic tension herein is our foreknowledge of what’s coming) would seem downright gratuitous. A for the scene itself, the actors attack one another with such vigor it would appear they’ve confused passion with aggression. (Similarly, in 2004’s Kinsey Liam Neeson and Peter Sarsgaard engage in a kiss that looks as if it might have left bruises; perhaps these hetero actors are fearful of appearing too comfortable in these scenes.)

Yet, despite the seeming reticence on the actors part to fully commit to the required physicality, this is the strongest part of the film. The confusion and unease the two display in the aftermath of their first evening together (“I ain’t queer,” Ennis declares) is perfectly nuanced in both the tightness of Ledger’s jaw and the question in Gyllenhaal’s blue puppy-dog eyes.

Time passes and the boy’s relationship continues to grow closer, as played out in vignettes of the homoerotic horseplay that is practically de rigueur for adolescent males. At the end of the season however they part ways: ennis to his mousy fiancee, Alma (Michelle Williams), and jack to the rodeo circuit. Ennis and Alma have a daughter, the awkwardly named Alma, Jr. (I kid you not), but never move beyond their dumpy apartment over the laundry. The following season Jack reapplies for the job up on Brokeback, but Aguirre won’t have any of it (“You boys sure found a way to make the time pass up there”). It will be years before he and Ennis see one another again, although when Jack finally does drop in on the Del Mars the two reconnect immediately, their pent-up passion pouring forth in a hurried, lustful kiss that Alma, unbeknownst to Ennis, witnesses. The two ol’ pals head off to Brokeback for “some fishin’” – the macho fishing and hunting trips subterfuge for their biannual liaisons.

At this point, however, the film falls into a rut that it is never fully able to extricate itself from. Playing like a stag version of “Same Time, Next Year”, we keep hopping from one rendezvous to the next, with brief side trips into their personal lives (Jack marries the, initially fiery, daughter of a well-to-do farm equipment salesman [Anne Hathaway]; Ennis and Alma have another child and move from over the laundry to a ground level hovel) and are treated to the sight of Ledger and, especially, Gyllenhaal sporting a variety of bad fake sideburns and mustaches to hammer this passage of time home And as Hathaway’s hair color lightens noticeably from scene to scene (as she becomes colder?), ultimately to an almost Dolly Parton platinum, the film veers perilously close to camp.

The problem with this second half of the movie is that not a whole lot seems to really happen. And even when things do, they feel strangely disconnected and incomplete, as if we’re watching a series of thematically linked scenes rather than a whole. Kind of, sort of just like STNY. With gay cowboys.

As Ennis, Heath Ledger does bring a smoldering tension to the screen, particularly in the scenes depicting the loneliness of his domesticity, although his guttural, pinched delivery had me thinking throughout of Billy Bob Thornton’s Carl Childers in Slingblade. As Jack, Gyllenhaal radiates an endearing, wide-eyed boyishness that offsets Ledger’s sullen Ennis well and should forever do away with the Tobey Maguire comparisons. Arguably the initiator of their relationship, we later see Jack eagerly engage Lureen sexually, with no explanation as to whether he is bisexual, so in need of physical intimacy that anyone, regardless of gender, will do, or merely very adept at faking it. Jack is the one willing to have a life with Ennis on their own ranch, an offer which the ever wary Ennis refuses time and again, citing a similar arrangement between two men when he was a boy that ended in homophobic violence. And though we are given some opportunity to know and understand Alma, Lureen, beyond her introductory scenes, is little more than a series of increasingly cold and platinum-tressed blips. When Ennis takes up with a hot-to-trot waitress (a wasted Linda Cardellini) in a pointless third act contrivance we can’t help but wonder, since his marriage was so loveless and without affection, what the hell he’s thinking. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, it really is that kind of movie.

None of this, however, is particularly new ground for director Lee. Unrequited love and words left unspoken were major motifs in both Crouching Tiger... (2000) and The Ice Storm (1997), whereas the western milieu was visited in Lee’s 1999 Civil War drama, Ride With The Devil. Perhaps hoping to return to the more poetic style of his earlier films in the wake of the lambasted Hulk, Lee seems to be trying too hard to seduce with his visuals, sacrificing, alternately, story and characterization in the process. Why, for instance, when Alma finally confronts Ennis on the “fishing trips”, well after she and Ennis have divorced, does she never mention the fact that she actually saw Ennis and Jack kiss! If it were something that she was just going to live with in silent subservience, that would be one thing, but to have her explain how she deduced, via amateur sleuthing (“That fishin’ line never touched the water!” Hoo boy!) that there was something really fishy going on during those weekends, when we know that she saw them! is either sloppy, or, even worse, lazy filmmaking. Period.

Plot holes aside, BROKEBACK, is a reasonably well made and sincere piece of adult (as in grown-up) entertainment. But once all the hoo-hah over its alleged groundbreaking subject matter (is it that their gay, or that they’re gay COWBOYS?) blows over, it will more than likely take its rightful place as the somewhat underdone curio it truly is. Yee ha, indeed.

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originally posted: 04/02/06 09:34:01
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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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