Oh wow.. I know I credited Jack Twist with the above quote, but at this point, I think it could apply to anybody who has seen it. What IS it about this movie that has got me in tangles?!?! I can’t sleep, eating seems kinda empty and time NOT talking about Brokeback is time wasted!! I have never been like this with a film before – EVER. And frankly, out of the 25 pages of submissions I sat through reading last night, I thank god I’m not the only one. I wish I had a dollar for every time I read comments like “this is the first time I’ve ever posted a review for a movie” etc.
Including the session I just arrived home from, I have seen Brokeback Mountain a total of 9 times. Not bad, considering it was only released in Australia on the 26th January. Everybody knows the story but for those who want to read my take on it: Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) meet while seeking employment. No words are spoken, only glances that are furtive and sneaky (Ennis) or brazen and inviting (Jack). They herd sheep on Brokeback Mountain and the glances between the men become more frequent and varying in the emotions that drive them. It is an absolute credit to the acting in this film that you can tell exactly what the actor is conveying without words. See if you can spot the sheepishness and embarrassment that fleets across Jack’s face as he realizes Ennis is intently watching the mare’s attempt to buck him off. It’s there. See if you can spot the curiosity that grows with every look Ennis gives Jack. The boys herd sheep, they meet up for meals, they begin to drink a little.
And it amazes me that no reviewer has mentioned just how funny the first half hour of the movie is! Here’s another one: see if you can spot the mischievous little glint that flashes across Ennis’s eyes and mouth before he baits rodeo-rider Jack with the line “now my daddy, he was a fine roper. Didn’t rodeo much though. He thought rodeo cowboys was all ****-ups”. And Jack’s indignation giving way to a little impromptu rodeo dance before crashing headlong into all their gear. And Ennis’s wry observation “I think my dad was right”. Wonderful, genre-appropriate humor. And then the drinking which leads to Ennis spending the night down at the campsite before the freezing temperatures force him into the pup-tent with Jack.
This starts the whole movie in motion. The boys sexual encounter is quite rough and violent, but something in Jack accepts this is the way Ennis is most comfortable expressing himself. Startling contrast to the tenderness of the following evening, when Jack is the one dominating the encounter. He whispers over and over to the clearly struggling Ennis “its alright, its alright” and pulls him into a protective embrace, kissing his hair, his face. The surrender and submission on Ennis’s face is something we see rarely for the rest of the movie.
The boys separate and marry their women. But their lives are a sham and they know it. The two leads also beautifully convey – again without words – the fact that what they yearn for most is each other.
I could talk about this all day, but instead I’m going to cite a few of my favorite moments – the moments that (even after 9 viewings) still make me well-up: 1. The look that crosses Ennis’s face as he walks to the window and sees Jack for the first time in 4 years, pulling up in his truck.
2. The unrestrained passion of their reunion. They embrace, there’s a fire in their eyes, and Ennis takes his lover by the lapels of his vest and shoves him against the wall, knocking his hat off and landing the most intense, breathtaking and passionate kiss I have ever seen in watching 30 years of movies. Bogie and Bacall WISHED they had this kind of intensity and chemistry.
3. The 15 – 20 seconds of screen time it takes for you to watch Jack become a broken man. Upon hearing of Ennis’s divorce, Jack drives from Texas to Wyoming to surprise him. He is full of life, whistling and smiling. And when he realizes Ennis’s divorce doesn’t change anything between them and they still can’t be together, the sparkle literally disappears from his eyes, his posture sags slightly and his heart breaks. You see it all. I’ve heard it said: Jake Gyllenhaal has been robbed blind at the spate of recent award ceremonies. This scene and the ensuing scene of him driving away crying is among the finest acting in the film.
4. One final image: Ennis sitting at Jack’s dining room table, eye-balling Mr Twist, who has just bitterly revealed (without explicitly stating) that he knows his son was gay and that Ennis was his lover. Ennis doesn’t respond but he feels the hostility emanating. And then a gentle reassuring hand appears in shot on Ennis’s shoulder, from Jack’s mother, who also knows but accepts and understands and most importantly, supports.
Everybody has already said it but I have to say it again: the acting. Heath is completely brilliant, as is his bevy of supporting women, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway and Linda Cardellini. But as far as I’m concerned, this wouldn’t have been the film it was without Jake Gyllenhaal. Jack is the heart and soul of this movie.
This is a film I am struggling to wean myself off. Its hard sitting through other movies now cause they all pale in comparison. Nothing has ever touched me like this. Its hard to imagine anything will ever again. I know you can’t really give a film 15 out of 10 but there you have it. Brokeback got us good? You better believe it.