Saturday, December 24, 2005

Brokeback Mountain 

The Girl has been on the edge of her golf cart waiting for this movie to open in wide release, and last night we finally got to see it.

Colloquially known as "the gay cowboy movie," Brokeback Mountain stars Heath Ledger (as Ennis) and Jake Gyllenhall (as Jack) as two young cowboys trying to eke out a living in 1963 Wyoming. They meet when they each get a job tending sheep grazing in the national forest on Brokeback Mountain. Ranchers can purchase grazing rights and their workers camp out there, but the camp area is a distance away from where the sheep are. The two cowboys are supposed to tend the sheep during the day and eat their morning and evening meals in the camp, but then one is supposed to go back out to the sheep and keep an illegal overnight eye on them, with only a pup tent and no fire to keep warm.

Over the course of the season the ebullient Jack and the man of few, clench-jawed words Ennis become friends and eventually begin a relationship. The bulk of the movie follows them over the ensuing decades as they lead their separate but periodically intersecting lives, and the difficulty each has living acceptable lives in a not so accepting time and place.

The setting and the cinematography are stark, with the wind vying for a nomination in a supporting role. The mood is quiet, regretful, longing and desperate. The acting by the young cast is astounding. None of the four main actors (also including Anne Hathaway as a wealthy barrel racer and Michelle Williams as a lonely wife and mother) are out of their 20s, but we see them age from teenagers to middle age, and they do it well, with understated grace. Ledger, Williams, director Ang Lee, the screenplay, the score, the theme song and the film itself have all picked up Golden Globe nominations.

Heath Ledger deserves the accolades he's getting for this role. While costar Jake Gyllenhall has had success throughout his career with landing substantive roles in which he's excelled, up until now Ledger has primarily been eye candy or in not-so-acclaimed pictures (with the exception of Monster's Ball, but that was a small supporting role). He breaks out with Brokeback Mountain, and I expect he will continue to win the roles everyone wants in the coming years. His next feature opening is the more light-hearted (and rakish eye-candy-ish) Casanova, coming to theaters this Sunday. We'll be heading for Rumor Has It... (which I've been anticipating since August 2004) for our annual Christmas evening trip to the cinema, but I'd like to see Casanova while it's out.

Reality Check: The Girl liked it, but found it to be a little slow and rather mood-dampening. Like with Boys Don't Cry or In the Bedroom, both excellent and award-winning films, she wouldn't recommend seeing it twice in short succession. But do go see it.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 8:26 AM