I am probably the last person on earth to see this movie, and I hesitated to write about it here, because it’s so last year or something, but who cares. It’s my blog, and you don’t have to read about how much I loved a movie that came out last year.
One of the things people say over and over about Brokeback Mountain is that it stays with you. I felt that after initially reading the short story. It was so powerful, so spare, and so moving. I don’t often tell my husband he has to read something, because our reading tastes (most of the time) aren’t all that similar. It isn’t that he doesn’t like literature. I think he just sees reading true crime as research, and I think that’s the direction he sees himself going, writer-wise. One thing I read that Larry McMurtry said after reading Annie Proulx’s short story “Brokeback Mountain,” was that he wished he’d written it. That was how I felt after I read it. I can’t explain why, because it’s not like anything I write. It reminded me, actually, of Cormac McCarthy. The characters were so well drawn with so few words. They were so real. And their story was so moving. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I read it, and after seeing the movie, well, I can’t say I’m speechless, because here I am blathering, but it was probably one of the most amazing movies I’ve ever seen in my life.
One of the things that pierced me to the core was the sky. The sky only looks like that in the West. The movie was filmed in Canada, but I was forcibly reminded of the landscape and sky in Colorado, where I grew up. You kind of forget that sky, I guess, but then when you see it again, like I did in this movie, it seizes you; it all comes flooding back. My family has lived in the West, mostly in Texas, since the late 1800’s. I kept thinking of the trips we’d make to see my great-grandparents, who lived in a very small town in Texas. It looked so much like the small towns in this movie. The house that Jack’s parents lived in was so much like my great-grandparents’ house. They paid $500 for it when they first married and lived there until they died in the 1980’s. Everything about the setting in this movie was totally authentic. It made me so homesick.
I think it’s a shame that Heath Ledger had to make this movie the same year that Philip Seymour Hoffman made Capote. I have not seen Capote yet, but Steve loved it and said Hoffman was totally deserving of the Oscar he won for best actor. If it had not been for Hoffman, I feel sure nothing would have stood in Ledger’s way of winning the Oscar. He was incredible. I am related to guys like Ennis, and Ledger perfectly captured that set of the jaw and the way they swallow their words. There is a beauty in their simplicity. It took me a long time to appreciate that.
One of the things I admired about the story, and then the movie, was the way that it dealt with Ennis and Jack’s relationship as one of passion and love — one that couldn’t be fulfilled because of society and Ennis’s fears. I can’t figure out how to explain this, but you don’t dwell on the fact that they are two men in love so much as that they are two people in love, and they can’t be together. It’s heartbreaking. On the one hand, it’s rather obvious that it’s two men, but somehow that isn’t where you focus. It is so subtle, and I just can’t figure out how to explain it. On the one hand, I hate to even say that, because it insinuates that there’s a problem with having a love story about two men. Let’s face it — in our modern American society, there still is, isn’t there?
Obviously you’d probably have to be living under a rock not to have heard some of the more famous lines, and having read the story, I knew how it would end. I was still sobbing at the end. It was so moving — the tiny little shrine Ennis created in his closet. I started crying when Ennis and Jack parted for the last time, and I didn’t stop until the film was over. If anything, I just sobbed harder.
The movie was incredibly faithful to Annie Proulx’s story. The women characters were fleshed out a bit. Some of the relationships were expanded a bit. I don’t remember the Thanksgiving scene at Jack’s being in the story. The Thanksgiving scene at Alma’s was rendered exactly as it was written in the story.
In all, the movie was pitched perfectly. The actors, screenwriters, and director are to be commended on their performances.