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Brokeback Mountain

Reviewed By Abhishek Bandekar
Posted 03/16/06 02:48:28

"Love…above all things!"
5 stars (Awesome)

Love is a tricky emotion. You hope to find it, but it only ends up finding you. And no matter how long you wait for that feeling to gladly overcome you with its rapture, you sometimes wish it’d just as easily let go and rid you of its myriad complications; all the while hoping otherwise! Told you, it’s a tricky emotion! 'Brokeback Mountain' like all great love-stories is blissful & heartbreaking, delightful & despairing, simple yet complex, hopeful yet hopeless and tragic beyond its romanticism. It’s about two souls, madly in love yet torn apart by the rigid conventions of society. It’s about love’s honesty and its overwhelmingly casual kidnap of the heart. Should it make any difference then that it’s about two men?

The wonder of Ang Lee’s direction is the broad strokes with which he paints this screen adaptation of Pulitzer winning Annie Proulx’s short story for the New Yorker magazine. Lee knows love is universal, and strangely also very personal. His Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon had two intense love-stories at its centre, and he brings his masterful clarity in the handling of that film here. He realizes that a love-story can resonate universally only when it’s dealt individually! It may sound confusing, but the fact that Lee accepts his two protagonists being male as just another script-detail than a controversial highlight allows any viewer of any sexual orientation to view it from his/her person. Had Lee indulged in propaganda or used his characters as torch-bearers of the homosexuals, the movie might have lost its emotional core and minimized to a mere mouthpiece of gay rights. In making the movie about love, above all things, Lee and his writers(Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana) have ensured that Brokeback Mountain transcends its subject-matter and will be remembered as a meditation on the mechanics of the tragedy of love.

Ennis Del Mar(Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist(Jake Gyllenhaal), two cowboys meet in Signal, Wyoming in 1963. Hired by Joe Aguirre(Randy Quaid), Ennis and Jack- between their mundane routines of looking after a herd of sheep, dining endlessly on beans and braving fluctuating weather -find only themselves to talk and spend time with on the Brokeback Mountain. And on one drunk and chilly night, they end up in each other’s embrace and have sex. Homosexuality is a tabooed subject even today; back in the 60’s people weren’t even sure what it was and why it was? More confused were those who underwent these tendencies. Ennis and Jack both assert that they aren’t queers, and believe it best that their tryst at Brokeback remain at Brokeback. Both settle into socially acceptable lives; Ennis marries a homely Alma(Michelle Williams) while Jake weds the sporty, rich and aggressive Lureen(Anne Hathaway). But a few years and three children(Ennis’s 2 daughters and Jack’s only son) later, Ennis and Jack meet up, like lovers of a past birth. They continue to meet every few years under the pretext of fishing trips(!), knowing very well that they’re hopelessly in love yet too apprehensive and confused to acknowledge it. Jack is more forthright of the two, he even proposes Ennis a life “just like this…always”. This dialogue that Jack and Ennis share under moonlight is as tender a conversation that you’ll find in any love story. Giving further plot developments will do a great disservice to a virginal experience that is truly recommended. Let it be said that the story will traverse paths that should soften the hardened of souls.

Shot languidly(Rodrigo Prieto) with a dignified grace, Brokeback Mountain’s landscape is a perfect allegory to its proceedings. Coupled with Gustavo Santaollala’s minimalist score, Brokeback Mountain is an instant classic. Add to it the fine performances, supporting players included, and you have a great ensemble. Michelle Williams is amazingly effectual as the confused and betrayed wife who knows of her husband’s secret but is unsure how to confront it. Anne Hathaway breaks out of her Disney image(bare breasts notwithstanding) with a studied act and a scene-chewing parting scene. Kate Mara however is the break-out performer. As Ennis’s loving, understanding and mature-beyond-her-age daughter, Kate gives the film’s warmest performance. On an aside, what the hell is Anna Faris doing in this movie? This is the second time, after Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation, that she’s popped up like an unwanted zit in a film that I admire!

Brokeback Mountain’s strength is the subtlety and conviction in Heath and Jake’s act. Cast as polar opposites in roles that’d drive away the most careless of Hollywood wannabe, Jake and Heath turn in performances that will define them for the rest of their careers. Nearly every critic has praised Heath’s Brando-esque mumbling act that oozes of restrained emotions and loud silences, but Jake’s act is being criminally overlooked. Saddled with the thankless role of the louder of the two lovers, Jake doesn’t misstep once. Infact, it is Jake’s Jack that is the heart of the film and it’s his performance that acts as the catalyst to Heath’s quiet and voluminous turn as Ennis.

Watching the film, everyone will surely relate to some aspect of it on some personal level. I for one wept and nodded my head in agreement when Jack Twist cried out, “I wish I knew how to quit you!” Haven’t you ever felt the same way about your first love, maybe your only true love? 'Brokeback Mountain' is a sweeping love-story, undeserving of being bracketed as hetero or homo. To call it a gay cowboy love-story is only insulting it. It’s about missed opportunities, about lives that could’ve been. Tell you what- 'Brokeback Mountain' will make a great box-set with Martin Scorsese’s 'The Age Of Innocence'(by Edith Wharton) and Neil Jordan’s 'The End Of The Affair'(by Graham Greene).

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