CinemaDave (cinemadave) wrote,

The over rated "Brokeback Mountain"

Given the sad state of motion pictures for 2005, it seems appropriate that "Brokeback Mountain" is my last review of the year for the "Observer." This past December, major mainstream media critics, including the Florida Film Critics Circle, have hailed “Brokeback Mountain” as the best picture of the year. "Brokeback Mountain" features confident direction, honest acting, gorgeous cinematography, and a haunting musical score. Yet, given another time and another place, one wonders if this film would have been so highly appraised.

Based on a short story by Annie E. Proulx, "Brokeback Mountain" tells the tale about two drifters, Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gledhill). Hired by Joe (Randy Quaid), Ennis and Jack become shepards and watch over the sheep in the valley of Brokeback Mountain. A few months on the range, Ennis and Jack drink too much, cuddle in the cold and consummate their relationship. When their tour of service ends, Jack and Ennis go their separate ways, but secretly long for their days on Brokeback Mountain.

Both men eventually marry and have children. Jack marries an ambitious woman (Anne Hathaway) and becomes a Texas Baron. With limited social skills, Ennis struggles to support his wife (Olivia Williams) and two daughters. Both men stray from their marriage when they meet each other for camping trips several times a year. As both men age, they find themselves trapped by their memories of their heavenly days on Brokeback Mountain. The inability for these two men to mature and take responsibility for their lives eventually leads to tragedy.

The passion between Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall seems more real than some heterosexual couples on the big screen as of late. Given his work in "The Patriot" "Ten Things I Hate About You" and "Monster's Ball," Ledger takes his young Mel Gibson-apprentice-screen-image and crafts a slow witted, but confused character. Gyllenhaal's Jack Twist accepts his homosexuality early in life and is more emotional aggressive. Olivia Williams and Anne Hathaway briefly flash their breasts to the delight of the male heterosexual audience.

My last comment is not a cheap joke or a trite observation. In order to gain mainstream acceptance, "Brokeback Mountain" offers certain scenes to attract a broader audience. Ledger retains his female fan base by defending his daughter's honor and dancing with a waitress (Linda Cardellini). Couch potato cowboys of America will feel homesick for the cinematography of the great outdoors, campfires and coyotes howling on the range. While most of the story is set in Texas and Wyoming, most of these scenes were filmed in Canada.

It is interesting to note that “Brokeback Mountain” is in limited release across the nation and has yet to break the top ten on the box office charts. The film has been marketed directly to communities with gay demographics. Today’s critics have described “Brokeback Mountain” as a breakthrough motion picture. Sadly, most modern day film critics have short memories or do not watch cowboy movies on televisions. Directed by Edward Dmytryk in 1959, the movie “Warlock” presented Anthony Quinn and Henry Fonda as shootists with homosexual tendencies. The two gunmen have no problem cleaning the vermin out of the town of Warlock. It is keeping the peace that Quinn and Fonda can’t figure out and Richard Widmark arrives to bring justice to the town.

Six years ago, "American Beauty" was the critical darling of 1999. A parable about Bill and Hilary Clinton, this film went on to win the major mainstream media awards for best picture. “American Beauty” seems to have been forgotten while the movies that lost the Oscar that year, (i.e. “The Sixth Sense”"The Insider" “The Green Mile”) appear to have gained more influence. Like “American Beauty,” "Brokeback Mountain" seems to be following the same marketing campaign for the golden idol. Given the mainstream raves for “Brokeback Mountain,” I see another case of the Emperor's New Clothes Syndrome – everyone only see what they want to see and over rated movies win big awards.
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