The continuing chronicle of Wesley's quest to be published; plus comments on popular culture, family life, and whatever else falls out of his head.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Review: Brokeback Mountain

This past Saturday, Roger Ebert wrote the following in regard to Mission: Impossible III, explaining why a 2-hour action sequence can get boring:

There is a theory that action is exciting and dialogue is boring. My theory is
that variety is exciting and sameness is boring. Modern high-tech action
sequences are just the same damn thing over and over again: high-speed chases,
desperate gun battles, all possible modes of transportation, falls from high
places, deadly deadlines, exotic locations and characters who hardly ever say
anything interesting.

I find myself agreeing with this sentiment more and more every year. I don't know if my tastes are maturing or if I'm just becoming a fuddy-duddy, but movies like Mission: Impossible III don't interest me much anymore (not that the first M:I did any better).

But I would go one step further than Ebert to say that movie with an obvious agenda are boring as well. Movies that want to make some political statement, or that have something to prove beyond giving the audience a good story--that's boring, because you can predict the twists and arguments the movie is going to present to achieve its goals. And, that's frustrating, because many movies will present only their arguments, presenting anyone with an opposing argument as someone to be mocked and laughed at.

The wife finally convinced me to sit down an and watch Brokeback Mountain on Saturday. I really had no desire to see the film for a couple of reasons:
1. Ang Lee is a great director who injects visual poetry into his films, but sometimes he'll put it in movies where it doesn't belong (Hulk), or in films I don't think I would enjoy anyway (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).
2. I figured the movie had an agenda. I had heard all the hype about the "Gay Cowboy" picture (and let's be honest, they may work as shepherds, but they are cowboys).

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal portray two ranch hands who work one summer in 1963 as unsupervised shepherds alone on a mountain in 1963. During their time there, they fall into angry sex that blossoms into an affair. The remainder of the movie follows the two men over the next twenty years as they go their seperate ways, get married, have kids, and continue their affair with one another.

I was expecting this to be a movie with a PURPOSE: to show that homosexuals are persecuted unjustly, and that there would be small-minded rednecks as the villains. I was surprised and pleased to discover that neither were true. Brokeback Mountain is a character-intensive story about how the impusive actions can haunt someone for the rest of his life.

Heath Ledger gives the performance of his life as Ennis Del Mar, a shy, mumbling cowpoke who's engaged when the movie starts. He brings a quiet sobriety to the role, while giving Ennis a 'deer-in-the-headlights' expression through most of the movie. I can certainly see why he was nominated for Best Actor this year.

However, the only real problem I had with the movie was with his performance. Throuhout the movie, Ennis is about as emotive as a stump. But, only in the scenes on the mountain after both cowboys have acknowledged their love does Ennis seem anywhere near comfort in his own skin. In those scenes, he smiles easily, which is fine, but he also is far too 'touchy-feely.' It's a jarring contrast that disappears for the rest of the movie.

There is one other nitpick--Anne Hathaway (in another breakout performance) goes topless for a short scene, and that was disturbing. I'll admit that The Princess Diaries is one of my favorite guilty pleasures of the past 10years. Nobody should want to see Princess Mia's boobies. But, as I think about it, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that she went to 'Grandmere' Julie Andrews for counsel, and Andrews herself bared all for S.O.B.

Beyond that, Brokeback Mountain is a wonderful film. I doubt if I'll ever see it again, because it's too damn depressing. But I'm glad I had the opportunity to see it at all, and would say this is definitely a Must-See.


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