The Sadness of Forbidden Love
Stories about forbidden love resonate with many moviegoers, and Brokeback Mountain is no exception. However, because this acclaimed film directed by Ang Lee focuses on the relationship between two cowboys, it has captured more attention than other movies with a similar romantic theme. Although I desperately wanted Lee to pick up the pace in his Western melodrama, revelatory performances by co-stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal impressed me enough to keep watching -- even through its repetitive Same Time Next Yearish sequences.
Ledger (Casanova) and Gyllenhaal (Jarhead) display none of the stereotypical behavior we’ve come to expect from gay characters in Hollywood movies. Ledger endows Wyoming ranch hand Ennis Del Mar, a man of few words, with a quiet masculinity, and Gyllenhaal gives handsome rodeo cowboy Jack Twist a manly swagger. Ennis and Jack meet in 1963 when both are hired to herd sheep on Brokeback Mountain. They form a life-long bond that goes deeper than friendship -- a physical and emotional connection that gives them alternating feelings of joy and sadness. Because they know society will not accept their relationship, Ennis and Jack meet secretly over a 20 year period, hiding this fact from the women they marry.
Brokeback Mountain emerges as a groundbreaking movie by showing the power of love between two men and the way they -- and the other people in their lives -- suffer as a result. Michelle Williams (The Station Agent), in particular, delivers a heartbreaking performance as Ennis’ wife, who experiences quite a shock when she discovers her husband kissing Jack passionately.
Yes, the film includes intense sex scenes. I think they are unnecessary; we know what’s happening inside that tent on Brokeback Mountain. But, hey, I feel the same way about similar scenes showing heterosexual sex. Guess I’m old-fashioned when it comes to love stories. I like to see an emphasis placed on romance, leaving me to fill in those graphic details with my own imagination, thank you very much.
Because Brokeback Mountain has made such a profound impact on so many viewers, I almost feel guilty that I can’t rave about it -- not even for its highly touted cinematography. Mountains, valleys and plains are beautiful, but I found nothing special about the way they’re photographed here. Perhaps seeing this film so soon after my amazement at the stunning camera work in Pride & Prejudice interfered with my objectivity.
Despite my lack of overwhelming enthusiasm for Brokeback Mountain, I’m sure it will be honored several times during this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. Wonder if host Jon Stewart will say, "Not that there's anything wrong with that"?
(Released by Focus Features and rated “R” for sexuality, nudity, language and some violence.)