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Brokeback Mountain
2005 - R - 134 Mins.
Director: Ang Lee
Producer: Larry McMurty
Written By: Annie Proulx, Larry McMurty, Diana Ossana
Starring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Michele Williams
Review by: Harrison Cheung
Official Site: www.brokebackmountain.com
   
A tragic love story set against the sweeping vistas of Wyoming and Texas, ‘Brokeback Mountain’ tells the tale of two young men - a ranch-hand and a rodeo cowboy - who meet in the summer of 1963, and unexpectedly forge a lifelong connection, one whose complications, joys and tragedies provide a testament to the endurance and power of love.

Starring Heath Ledger (‘Casanova,’ ‘A Knight’s Tale’) and Jake Gyllenhaal (‘Jarhead,’ ‘Donnie Darko’), Ang Lee’s latest project is firmly in his favorite territory – unrequited love and frustration. Have a look at Lee’s resume, his films like ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,’ and you’ll see that he’s become the master of these stories of gentle longing and its long-term damage when unreciprocated or unresolved.

Based on the award-winning short story by Annie Proulx, ‘Brokeback Mountain’ is Ang Lee at his best (we should forgive and forget ‘The Hulk’). It’s a beautiful film with sweeping vistas and an equally sweeping emotional roller coaster as this contemporary ‘Romeo and Juliet’ painfully tries to explore a same-sex relationship set in a decidedly gay-unfriendly setting. When Jack (Gyllenhaal) and Ennis (Ledger) first meet, they are both 19 years old and looking for a summer job, tending sheep up on Brokeback mountain. Ennis is a young man of few words, having grown up an orphan, raised by a brother and sister. Jack is the extrovert, chatty and friendly.

By the time Jack and Ennis have sex, the two young men, insistent on their heterosexuality, nevertheless indulge often. A summer fling? Not for Ennis who weeps when they part. Not for Jack who hunts for Ennis four years later.

But four years later, both men have married and have children. Jack has married a rich Texan girl, Lureen (Anne Hathaway, ‘Princess Diaries’) and inherited a father-in-law who hates him, while Ennis has hooked up with quiet, mousy Alma (Michele Williams, ‘Dawson’s Creek’). The film shifts deeper into tragedy when we realize that, aside from the men’s secretive relationship, they are cheating on their wives and ruining two marriages and two families.

To tell this tale of complex love, Lee assembled a great cast. Aussie actor, Ledger, gimlet-eyed, is brilliant as the lost soul, Ennis – a loner on the scale of a young Clint Eastwood, while Gyllenhaal’s wide-eyed and enthusiastic performance is effective though his Texan accent seems forced. Since the film takes place over 20 years, it’s even more impressive to watch Ledger’s body language change, as he gets older. However, it’s Williams who sears the screen as the unhappy wife who discovers her husband’s secret life. Her eyes are all hate, betrayal and hurt. Only Hathaway’s character seems half-formed, a businesswoman too occupied with her family business to notice what her husband is up to.

‘Brokeback Mountain’ is a smart film, slowly paced, very American with its expansive cinematography of the Wyoming mountainside. When one is lonely, the scenery implies, it doesn’t matter if you fall in love with a man or a woman. ‘Brokeback Mountain’ also redefines cinematic masculinity, as neither Jack nor Ennis are the metrosexuals of say, ‘Will and Grace.’ There is also an undercurrent of the danger of discovery – Ennis and Jack are lovers in a dangerous time and place. Wyoming was where Matthew Sheppard was lynched, and Ennis has a disturbing memory of seeing a victim of a lynching. The film ends on a note of regret, bittersweet perfect in the hands of Ang Lee.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

 
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