4.08.2006

REVIEW: Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)

The cultural phenomenon that barely anyone has actually experienced - that is Brokeback Mountain. Its more famous dialogue, musical score, wardrobe... all of the core elements have quickly become engrained in pop America despite the box office numbers not quite matching the hype. Because of this, it seems a challenge to view the film without thinking of it as "the gay cowboy movie." Thankfully the task of seeing beyond that diminutive label is made easy in Ang Lee's latest critically acclaimed display of versatility.

Brokeback's first third, in which the lead characters tend sheep and develop their relationship on the title location, feels thinly spread. Not all that much happens - even on the visual front - but ultimately we are given an idea of what it might have been like to be there, bored, hungry and lonely. The greatest quality of the film does begin to take shape though, and that is the representation of relationships. As the surprisingly captivating story's runtime ticks away, we watch the two men over years and years grow closer together and further apart, their wives and in-laws and their interesting dynamics and most sentimentally and memorable, their children growing up and reacting to the situations surrounding their coming of age.

Going in I was hesitant. The theatrical trailer seemed to have given everything away, robbing the experience of intrigue. In that case I was glad to see it pulling through right off the bat with a uniquely paced and dialogue-free opening scene. That trend continued and even though I knew most of the major plot points from the advertising campaign, it was the humble stylings and underbelly of the film's emotion that kept me interested.

One of the more widely noted (and Oscar nominated) aspects of Brokeback is the acting. Overall it didn't impress me to an Oscar-worthy level, but it was undoubtedly good and showed range from all involved. My favorite performance actually came from Anne Hathaway (who also surprised me by looking so yummy.) She was instantly winning, commanding her character and Jake Gylenhaal's and officially graduating from her Disney days. I have to briefly mention Randy Quaid's performance, which has become default conversation on the topic of Brokeback lately. He brings depth to a fairly one-dimensional villian-esque character similar to Dustin Hoffman's performance in Finding Neverland, but it remains now as just another bit of the film tainted by publicity due to Quaid's ridiculous lawsuit which you can read more about here.

So yes, although it is the butt of more jokes than Ryan Seacrest (seriously, why do people hate that guy!? He's sharp as a tack) for its subject matter, Brokeback Mountain pulls through and exists as a fine movie - it earned a spot on my DVD shelf, anyway.

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