|Cinema Signals by Jules Brenner:|
Coming Out of Homosexuality:
New Freedom for Men & Women
With homosexuality set against the magnificence of a Montana mountain range and grand vistas of Texas, director Ang Lee hasn't so much created a gay western as an outcast tragedy. With two of our most virile leading men in the central roles, it's the acting and the taste in presentation that become the primary creative elements. Lee ("Sense and Sensibility") proves again how well he can deliver on both counts. This story from the ever demanding and challenging pen of author Annie Proulx and adapted for the screen by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, may only appeal to a limited audience, but it's undeniably a work of considerable sensitivity, which speaks well of the fine pedigree of the creative talent behind it.
In the summer of 1963, ranch-hand Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and rodeo cowboy Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) meet outside the trailer office of local rancher Joe Aguirre (Randy Quaid) in Signal, Wyoming, looking for work. They're immediately assigned to protect Aguirre's herd of sheep against coyotes and marauders on Brokeback Mountain.
They set up camp on the majestic slopes and proceed to carry out the mission, but the proximity arouses dormant sexual feelings, which they consummate in the privacy of their remote tent. While neither will admit to being homosexual in a time and place where the exposure of it could bring death from sexual vigilantes, this is a genie that, once out of the bottle, will remain out. That is, between the two men, now friends and lovers for the rest of their lives.
Once the sheep job is completed, they part and set about to find ways to support themselves, Ennis in Wyoming, Jack to the rodeos in Texas. Each marries, Ennis to his sweetheart Alma (Michelle Williams) with whom he quickly produces two daughters; Jack to rodeo queen Lureen Newsome (Anne Hathaway) whose daddy is a wealthy businessman. But the limitations of folding into social norms is made evident when, after a four year silent separation, they meet again and express the real passion they're capable of.
At year long intervals, they then fall into a pattern, leaving their respective wives and families for a little "fishing" up on Brokeback.
In its barest essentials, this is a story of love against overpowering external forces, in this case society's unnacceptance. There's no little awareness of the dilemma between the men, nor considerations of escaping their constantly repressed lives. Del Mar expresses his understanding of the problem as, "If you can't fix it, you gotta stand it." The subject and theme of homosexuality in American society from the perspective of two trapped within it, is examined in a deep and thoroughly unique way.
All the more effectively for the facts that the screenplay is so well written, that the novel from which it's drawn so deeply understands the power of its subject, that Lee so delicately balances it, and that it's so well ennacted by Ledger and Gyllenhaal. Talk of Oscar level performance is not unwarranted.
Lee fails only in the length he leaves it on screen. The points are made, and remade. Sustaining it for 134 minutes points to his being seduced into cinematic self-indulgence, immune to the discipline of stopping when you're ahead. More becomes too much. But if you permit it its excess, this is a bold character study that avoids cliched trails.
The Book on which it's based
The Soundtrack Album
The Book on which it's based