Brokeback Mountain

While critics are falling over themselves to heap praise on Brokeback Mountain, viewers should realize one thing - it's not that great. It is a good movie, but the fawning praise comes more from the subject matter than anything else. Yes, Brokeback Mountain, based on the short story by Annie Proulx, is about two gay cowboys and the relationship they shared. The subject matter is highly controversial, especially the decision to place the story in 1960s Wyoming. In general, people are more accepting of gay relationships today than in the past, but Brokeback Mountain has a revisionist-ish feel about it. It's guaranteed that people will react negatively to Ang Lee's (Hulk, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) decision to mess with their picture of the past.

Lee is best as a visual director, and Brokeback Mountain excels in its visuals. The mountains of Wyoming have never looked more beautiful. Lee and cinematographer Rodrigo Pietro (Alexander, 21 Grams) convey the majesty and loneliness of the mountains by shooting from very far angles. Lush valleys and tree-covered mountains look beautiful, but aside from sheep and the occasional coyote, there are few people around. The skies, both at night and during the day, are gorgeous. The trailers have some of the most iconic images, Heath Ledger shot from below in a fighting stance as fireworks explode in the sky around him, and framed in the rear view mirror of a car, walking in the middle of the road. The much-talked-about sex scenes are fairly tame, shot darkly, contributing to a feeling of intimacy. These two men are the only things out here.

Brokeback Mountain's other good asset is its scope. It does not only look at the relationship between Ennis Del Mar (Ledger, The Brothers Grimm, Lords of Dogtown) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal, Jarhead, Proof), but how it changes over the years and its effect on the people around them. This decision by Lee and adapters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana is actually more interesting than the relationship itself. Del Mar and Twist met when they got jobs herding sheep on Brokeback Mountain in 1963. One was to keep camp, the other had primary care for the sheep, and returned only for meals. Both were loners, and slowly bonded. Twist was the one who initiated the relationship, and Del Mar was initially hesitant, but succumbed. After the summer, the two part. Ennis marries Cecil Mills (Michelle Williams, The Baxter, Imaginary Heroes) and continues life as a ranch hand, while Twist moves to Texas, tries to make some money in rodeos, and settles down with Lureen Newsome (Anne Hathaway, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, Ella Enchanted).

The initial relationship is probably the worst aspect of the film. It comes out of nowhere, and is frankly not that interesting. Both Del Mar and Ennis are not the most exciting people. Although they have some good rapport together, for the most part, the first section of Brokeback Mountain moves slowly, and was at times a bit dull. By themselves, they have nothing to worry about. Brokeback Mountain becomes more engrossing once the two are married. Mills discovers their secret, and it eats away at her. Both men make frequent trips back to the mountains under the guise of "fishing." Twist wants them to go further, but Del Mar, because of family obligations and societal mores, refuses. And thankfully, Lee did not decide to make this some overly important "message" movie. This is a love story where the two people happen to be men. Lee did not yield to the temptation to play up this gay angle, which is why Brokeback Mountain works as a film.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 14 minutes, Rated R for sexuality, nudity, language, and some violence.

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