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Brokeback Mountain (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain


Starring Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anna Hathaway, Randy Quaid, Linda Cardellini, Anna Faris, Valerie Planche, Graham Beckel, David Harbour, Kate Mara, Roberta Maxwell, Peter McRobbie, Scott Michael Campbell, David Trimble and Larry Reese.

Screenplay by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana.

Directed by Ang Lee.

Distributed by Focus Features.  134 minutes.  Rated R.

I normally review a movie almost immediately after seeing it.  However, Brokeback Mountain has taunted me, leaving me unsure of what to say as it simmered in my mind.  Suddenly it is weeks later and I’m still no closer to crystallizing my opinion of the movie than I was when I walked out of the theater.

So here goes.  Brokeback Mountain is brilliant filmmaking.  It is spectacularly evocative.  It has wonderful cinematography, spectacular acting, a tragic conflict and some of the most fantastic scenery of any film in recent years.  It fully deserves all of the positive press that it has been receiving.

Yet, honestly, I respected it more than I enjoyed it.

Please, no cries of homophobia — the fact that the movie is a love story of gay cowboys does not bother me at all.  In fact, I’m rather surprised it has taken so long for the idea to be done.  I can see how if there are only rugged men in great wide open spaces, these things are just going to happen.  No judgments here.

In case you have been out on in a mountain campfire for the last several weeks, this is the story of two hardened cowboys, Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) who are hired to spend the winter on a remote Wyoming mountain caring for livestock in the early 1960s.  At first they get on each other’s nerves — Jack talks too much and Ennis not at all — but eventually they become friends.  Then one night in the middle of a horrible snowstorm, when the two men fear they may freeze to death, the two become physically involved.

Even though both swear that they are not homosexual, they spend the rest of the winter as lovers.  When they come down from the mountain, they go back to their regular lives.  Ennis marries his girlfriend Alma and starts a family.  Jack tries to become a rodeo rider and gets a rich girl named Lureen (Anne Hathaway) pregnant.  They also get married.

The two men repress the fact that they are each other’s true love (particularly Ennis, Jack does dream of a day when he and Ennis can be together).  They get together periodically for “fishing trips” over the years, but most of the time they try to juggle their own unhappy home lives.

The film is spectacularly realistic about its time and its lifestyle.  It was a beautiful love story — no matter what the sex of the participants were.

It was just the movie was so serious, the characters were so repressed, their life choices so tragic that it made for uncomfortable viewing.  Yes, of course, that is what was exactly what was meant by the film.  Also, yes, I understand that was the way that it probably had to be in this particular place and time.  However, sometimes you react to a film viscerally and sometimes you don’t.  As a critic I can say nothing but positive things about Brokeback Mountain.  I am glad that I have seen it and I have no doubt that it will sweep the Oscars.  It was an incredibly well-done film.  However, I doubt I’ll ever be moved to see it again.  (12/05)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2006  All rights reserved. Posted: February 14, 2006.

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