Skip to comments.USCCB reviews Brokeback Mountain ["The universal themes of love and loss ring true. ..."]
Posted on 12/14/2005 11:22:00 PM PST by Antioch
"Brokeback Mountain" the much publicized "gay cowboy love story" adapted from a New Yorker magazine piece by Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Proulx, arrives at last, and the film itself -- a serious contemplation of loneliness and connection -- belies the glib description.
While it is the story of an intimate relationship, more to the point it's the relationship of two emotionally scarred souls. Ranch hands Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) share a sheepherding assignment on a mountain in Signal, Wyo., in 1963. Ennis is a man of few words; Jack is somewhat more open.
Their friendship gradually grows despite Ennis' taciturn manner. At first, it's only Jack who sleeps in the camp near the sheep (with Ennis ensconced down the mountain), but come to realize it is more practicable to guard the sheep in tandem. Ennis resolutely insists he'll sleep outdoors, but the cold drives him into Jack's tent, where the two awkwardly, then roughly, have sex. Incidentally, that scene -- short and with the men mostly clothed -- is the only onscreen gay sexual encounter in the film.
In the morning, both are too embarrassed to talk about what has transpired, but a bond has formed, and we are led to understand that the relationship has deepened. Later, some outdoor wrestling is observed by their boss, the unsympathetic rancher Joe Aguirre (Randy Quaid), who watches them with a knowing eye. At the end of the season, they come down from the mountain, and dismissing what happened on the mountain as a "one-shot deal," go their separate ways. Ennis is engaged to Alma (Michelle Williams, Ledger's real-life girlfriend). But we see him crumple in despair as soon as he's alone. The first human connection he's had is coming to an end.
Jack, for his part, makes a tentative attempt to pick up an Ennis-like cowboy in a bar, but eventually meets former prom queen Lureen (Anne Hathaway). Both men marry and have children. Time goes by, and Jack sends a postcard to Ennis telling him he's coming to town. The air is rife with anticipation as Ennis waits for the reunion. When Jack finally drives up, the unexpressive Ennis can barely contain his excitement, and rushes out to meet him.
They embrace passionately, not realizing that Alma is sadly viewing the interaction from behind the screen door. She says nothing, but understands all. On the trip, Jack proposes that they chuck their families and buy a ranch, but Ennis -- who as a child witnessed the aftermath of a hate-crime murder of two rancher neighbors who had lived together -- can't bring himself to do it.
Thereafter, Ennis and Jack initiate meeting several times a year for "fishing" trips where they can be alone together. Lureen, for her part, senses the importance of these trips to her husband, but remains engrossed in her own business. As the Catholic Church makes a distinction between homosexual orientation and activity, Ennis and Jack's continuing physical relationship is morally problematic.
The adulterous nature of their affair is another hot-button issue. But the pain Jack and Ennis cause their families is not whitewashed. (The women are played with tremendous sympathy, not as shrill harridans.) It's the emotional honesty of the story overall, and the portrayal of an unresolved relationship -- which, by the way, ends in tragedy -- that seems paramount.
Director Ang Lee tells the story with a sure sense of time and place, and presents the narrative in a way that is more palatable than would have been thought possible. Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana's screenplay uses virtually every scrap of information in Proulx's story, which won a National Magazine Award, and expands it while remaining utterly true to the source.
The performances are superb. Australian Ledger may be the one to beat at Oscar time, as his repressed manly stoicism masking great vulnerability is heartbreaking, and his Western accent sounds wonderfully authentic. Gyllenhaal is no less accomplished as the more demonstrative of the pair, while Williams and Hathaway (the latter, a far cry from "The Princess Diaries," giving her most mature work to date) are very fine.
Looked at from the point of view of the need for love which everyone feels but few people can articulate, the plight of these guys is easy to understand while their way of dealing with it is likely to surprise and shock an audience.
Except for the initial sex scene, and brief bedroom encounters between the men and their (bare breasted) wives, there's no sexually related nudity. Some outdoor shots of the men washing themselves and skinny-dipping are side-view, long-shot or out-of-focus images. While the actions taken by Ennis and Jack cannot be endorsed, the universal themes of love and loss ring true.
That is a standard response used to rebuff criticism. " Oh,but you are the only one who is complaining..." Odds are this is an absolute falsehood. One should always press the point and not accept this ( generally disingenuous) tactic.
Were it true, what difference would that make, you might ask. The peer pressure argument has gotten us where we are today as failing civilization.
>>>>Your last line is already wrong, though. It's breaking records for per-screen ticket sales, and it was such a relatively low budget that it will probably make money. Women will see this; they don't need straight men to see it.
Its only being shown on a handful of screens in the most gay activist communities. Of course its "per screen" sales are high. Try to show it somewhere outside the homosexual community and see how it does. Despite all the advertising and publicity, it will tank.
Bzzt! Wrong-o. This movie was made to get awards. That's why Ang Lee was made director. It won't make back its budget until after the Oscars. Even then, it'll be nip and tuck with overseas receipts and DVD and cable TV rights.
It should be noted that Brokeback Mountain didn't just release in 5 cities. It released in 5 theaters. That's it. Just 5. Given the targeted marketing and the size of the markets, I don't anticipate it doing well in wide release. I'm not sure that it will.
The same strategy and marketing spin was used for the horribly acted movie "Far from Heaven." As a tipoff, it too received a phalanx of five star reviews and Acadamy Award hysteria. Sure enough, it turned out to be a screed glorifying gay sex, family adandonment, and trashing the values of the 50s by equating homophobia with racism. It was pathetic. And of course, the USCCB reviewers LOVED this "insightful look at the tensions simmering below the facade of what would appear to be the ideal nuclear family..." hoping that with our "sophisticated" contemporary perspective, we would consider and hopefully reject our own prejudices."
"It won't make back its budget until after the Oscars."
The costs have already been recouped from foreign sales. The domestic gross will be pure profit.
>> While the actions taken by Ennis and Jack cannot be endorsed, <<
Doncha love it when truth slips out?
Doncha wish you could ping Papa Benedict? Something like:
"Accidental Self-Outing Ping!"
Syriana had a very comparable initial outing. It will gross about $25 million when all is said in done. It's market is much, much, much less confined to LA-SF-NY. Same goes for "Punch Drunk Love" which eventually made $17 million.
I'd compare it even more to "Melinda and Melinda," which went on to make less than $4 million.
Drudge compares it to other "Live Action" releases. Which is silly, because live action movies have never used such a release schedule, except for strictly micromarket ("art house") releases. Only Disney has ever done such releases. Compare Bareback Mountin' to Pocahontas, which made $450,000 per theater on six screens, the Lion King, which made $793,000, or even the spectuacular failure of Anastasia, which made $120,000.
Brokeback Mountain arrives at last,
"The universal themes of love and loss ring true."
What kind of sicko considers one night of anal exploitation to be "love"?
Annie Proulx. Horrible writer. threw one of her books across the room after the line "his eyes were the color of plastic"
The fact that the movie makes anal exploitation resemble love is precisely why it is so God-damned evil.
(And I'm not swearing; I mean that as I wrote it.)
Dunno if the movie itself can accurately be described as 'God-damned", but making it would seem to be the Grave Matter of which mortal sins are made ... IMO, viewing it likewise might also be an occasion of sin (in that it might lead one toward an approving view of sodomite "relationships").
OpusatFR on post 46 hit the nail on the head, and I agree. This would have been the only legitimate Catholic response to the confusion of love with sexuality. Christianity DOES have something vital to say about this matter-too bad the USCCB doesn't know what it is. It could have written a powerful and beautiful reply using JPII's "Theology of the Body." (this cultural phenomenon is precisely why he wrote it)
I'd much prefer resurrecting the former Office of the Inquisition and place the Hammer of Heretics at its helm. Better yet, place any SSPX priest at its helm, and the Hammer of Heretics (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux) as its patron.
I sent a copy of the review via e-mail to the Pope. I hope it gets there.
But that's normal for a release of this kind. We can deny it all we want, but the critical acclaim is going to make this a decent box office performance. The important thing is that that doesn't really matter much.