Brokeback Mountain (2005, Director Ang Lee)
We saw the preview for Brokeback Mountain a couple months ago, and I’ll admit I was moved. In fact, Janet cried a little (again, this is just the preview), and she’s not fond of romantic movies.
I’m not sure how they managed this, but somehow the film itself was less moving than its preview. Truth told, I was a little bored. It’s not that I’m an insensitive person–I’ll admit that I cried a little at the end of Serenity, for instance, and that wasn’t the first or only movie–, it’s just that the film didn’t allow for much of an emotional connection.
I think a large part of the problem was the soundtrack. It had more of a “playful pets trying to find their way home” feel than a “forbidden love between cowboys in a homophobic society” feel. At the moments that were supposed to be more emotional and moving, the accompanying soundtrack seemed to say, “aww, the little kitten is going to get rained on while finding his way back to his family”. That’s not to say the music was bad; I liked it on its own, but it just seemed inappropriate to the subject.
Of course, the subject–other than the inclusion of the element of homosexuality–wasn’t anything new. In fact, for most of the film, it was pretty standard “forbidden romance with secret affair”-level stuff that we’ve all seen a few hundred dozen times in other romance films. It was good, but ultimately still just regular old drama.
Then there were the characters. Jack Twist, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, came across as annoyingly forceful and a little obsessive. He certainly didn’t care much about anyone but himself. The attitude was understandable when applied to his frigid southern-belle-of-the-county-fair bitch of a wife (Anne Hathaway) and her overblown-ego jerkoff parents, but it extended all the way to people he actually claimed to love. None of the actions he took in the film seemed to serve any other purpose or to work toward any other goal than fulfilling his own desires.
Heath Ledger‘s character, Ennis Del Mar, was also annoyingly self-serving and cold, but not as irredeemably so as Twist. What surprised me about this film was that there seemed to be no kind of inner struggle in Twist or Del Mar over the choice between family and each other. Even Del Mar, the more appealing of the leads, came across as some kind of monster in relation to his family. Despite having brought two children into the world with a faithful, loving partner (Michelle Williams), he seemed willing to drop her–and his kids–like a used condom whenever the opportunity arose. Even if he wasn’t attracted to her at all and she was only a beard1, you’d think he’d have some feelings for her, or at least for his kids.
The entire emotional scope of most of the characters’ motivations and behaviors seemed oversimplified and grotesquely muted at its best moments and borderline silly at its worst.
While the makeup (and facial-hair growth) was done well enough to make everyone seem to age appropriately throughout the film, there was a moment near the end when a supposedly forty-something-year-old Del Mar and his daughter are talking in a trailer, and I thought to myself, “wait a minute–he’s only ten years older than she is”. Though, now I’m just nitpicking.
Overall, it was a bit of a disappointment. It was good, but not nearly as much as I’d expected. And there has to be something wrong when the preview moves someone to tears but the film itself does not.
1A pubic wig; slang for the heterosexual wife of a homosexual man who is trying to disguise his or her sexual orientation.