Year Released: 2005
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 127 minutes
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Are y’all ready for some Homo-on-the-Range? Does the prospect of watching Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal pretending to have sex make you hot and bothered?
No? Well, if you miss Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain,” that’s okay – you’re not missing much. This much-ballyhooed gay cowboy melodrama is an inert disappointment.
The film opens in Wyoming of 1963. Ledger is the quiet, taciturn Ennis Del Mar and Gyllenhaal is the extroverted, bouncy Jack Twist. They sign up as sheepherders on a summer assignment at the eponymous location, but one night a combination of whiskey and cold mountain air puts them together in a tent where they inexplicably launch into a session of “Ride ‘Em, Cowboy!” After getting over their initial confusion of what transpired, they spend a jolly summer on the mountain together. But when that assignment is over, they go their separate ways and drift into the hetero routine of marriage and fatherhood.
After four years, Jack (now living in Texas) inexplicably strikes up the friendship again and they head off on a fishing trip to their initial romping grounds. But the pressures of their respective new lives and the homophobia of their era prevents them from pursuing Jack’s vague dream of getting a ranch together. Instead, they agree to meet a couple of times each year – they tell their wives they’re off to go fishing, when instead they’re really playing Bareback Mountain.
I’ve never read the Annie Proulx short story that inspired the film, but I assume it has much more depth and emotion than this production. On screen, the relation between the men is more carnal than caring. There is no contact between them in the periods between their get-togethers, and their time together is never punctuated with anything resembling a genuine love. More likely the problem not from the source material but from the inadequacy of the performances – Ledger walks about mumbling in a weird voice while his eyes rarely rise from the floor and Gyllenhaal does a horrible cowboy twang which is stretched to high volumes in an attempt to convince the audience he is acting.
Michelle Williams as Ennis’ long-suffering wife, Anne Hathaway as Jack’s vaguely disinterested wife, and Randy Quaid as the gruff rancher who brings the men together via work hover on the periphery of the action, but none have much to do besides making stern faces and drop ironic pronouncements about the unlikely friendship at the center of the film. Gyllenhaal has a few rodeo riding sequences, but the sloppy editing makes it clear that he is not in the saddle; his stunt doubles bear no resemblance to him.
“Brokeback Mountain” takes great pains to avoid gay stereotypes, but it has no problems plugging in regional stereotypes that are equally offensive. In this film, all Texans are vulgar and wear tacky clothing, all Wyoming natives stand around like zombies and wear cheap clothing, and Mexicans are sleazy and oversexed (Jack crosses over to Juarez and strolls down a street overpopulated with male prostitutes). Yee-hah, indeed.
Posted on November 27, 2005 in Reviews by Phil Hall
If you liked this article then you may also like the following Film Threat articles:
- SAG AWARDS BREAK YOUR BACK
- BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (DVD)
- THE CONNECTICUT KID
- HEATH LEDGER CHATS JOKER
- BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN: COLLECTOR’S EDITION (DVD)
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