Sunday, January 22, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

Yesterday, I went to see "Brokeback Mountain" with a friend. Reasonable Man and I have been wanting to see it, but hadn't made plans to do so, so when Jacki invited me the other day, I jumped at the chance. Truthfully, I could go to the movies a lot more than I do -- we could go to the movies a lot more than we do. The kids aren't little anymore and we know plenty of babysitters who are more than happy to stay with our kids and make some dough. I don't know why we don't make plans to do it more often. In any case, Reasonable Man and I will be going to see "Brokeback Mountain" soon -- sometime this week if we can swing it -- because I know he would like it and I'm dying to see it again.

It was absolutely wonderful. It was heartbreakingly sad, and I spent the last half hour tearing up again and again. I can't remember the last time I watched a movie that affected me so deeply.

I'm not embarrassed to say that there is nothing I enjoy more than a good passionate romantic story, whether I'm watching it, reading it, or writing it. On screen, the combination of good writing, well-drawn characters, and hot chemistry between the actors is sadly in short supply. I can think of only a handful of movies that I've seen that get it just right. Most of your typical romantic comedies don't really hit the mark for me, although I'm occasionally surprised ("Notting Hill" nailed it). In any case, I wasn't sure, going into the theater yesterday, whether a romance between two men could affect me the way some of my favorite romantic movies have. I was open-minded about it being a love story, but I didn't have any idea how amazing I would find it.

One review I read said the supporting cast deserved equal credit, and I did think both Randy Quaid and Michelle Williams were very good, but I don't think there was anything to compare to the performances two lead actors. They make the movie. The moment Heath Ledger speaks for the first time, you know his performance is transformative. Not that he doesn't make it look effortless -- it's just that he inhabits the character so completely -- it's not just a voice but a whole unique appearance and posture he uses to show us who Ennis is. Jake Gyllenhaal hasn't gotten nearly the same buzz, but I found his performance equally remarkable. He is the more open and talkative of the two characters by a lot, but he ages more effectively. In his final scene, the way he held his body alone convinced me that he was an unhappy, frustrated middle-aged man.

The script and direction are very good, but the chemistry between the two actors takes center stage. Those who know definitively that they're uncomfortable with the whole idea of a sexual affair between two men should stay away, but I recommend this movie wholeheartedly to anyone else. There is really just one sex scene, Ennis' and Jack's first encounter, and after that, it's mostly just a few kisses. We're definitely not talking gay porn here -- the vast majority of the scenes between the two characters only involve talking by a campfire. But it's done so effectively, and if you're open to the story, the longing between these two men, who really know true acceptance and intimacy only the few times a year they are together, and who know that to live together might get them killed, is devastating.

Am I gushing? Do I sound overwrought? Sorry. But seriously, it's that good. Go see it.

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