Saturday, November 05, 2005

Brokeback Mountain (Review)

I've never cottoned to Heath Ledger's acting style. So when Mel Gibson began waxing "heaven-sent" about his younger co-star during press/photo ops for the (then) upcoming film The Patriot, I just knew the last remnants of cheese had finally fallen off of Mad Max' cracker -- or he was just telling the laissez faire porkie-pies (lies); doing ye olde Chaucerian "press junket buck dance" in an effort to shill for an upcoming feature he just happened to be starring in back at the turn of the century? Five years is an epoch in this town in any instance. More recently, when I got the word on the showbiz whisper circuit that Ledger was set to star in the film Brokeback Mountain as Ennis Del Mar opposite Jake Gyllenhaal -- another actor I've never felt neither here nor there about -- I wondered: "what tha fugg is Ang Lee thinking?"

The film Brokeback Mountain is culled from a short story written by Annie Proulx which was first published in the New Yorker back in '97 and then republished in a '99 collection of shorts called Close Range: Wyoming Stories. Set during 1963 in the big sky hinterlands the story begins when Del Mar and Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) meet while waiting to see if they'll be hired by Joe Aguirre (played by a convincingly indolent/bellicose Randy Quaid) to herd his sheep. The camera follows the two strangers as they are thrown together to take care of Aguirre's four-legged property and slowly get to know one another. Niether of them are effusive chatterboxes, they're there to get the job done and it's quickly established that both are as rugged and tough as the landscape that they're riding over on horseback. But man cannot survive on canned pork 'n beans and biscuits alone. The time-worn motto uttered by millions of Nevada tourists -- "whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" -- is given the lie because these two particular cowboys can't hold back. Suffice to say, things "occur" on one cold and rainy night --as it's just the two of them out there and nobody's looking. The bond that that bout of prurience forges ultimately bleeds over into the "straight-as-an-arrow" family man millieu that Ennis and Jack segue into when they part ways at the end of the trail. They don't see each other for many years. It's here that everybody's aforementioned "normalcy" gets called on the carpet and comes to a grinding halt -- when their paths eventually do cross again, thanks to Jack Twist's due dilligence, and the emotional spark, ignited years prior, flares up like an un-extinguishable prairie fire and....what? You want some hot buttered popcorn and a box of ju-ju fruit served up? How about a rigorous shiatsu and a grease-down as well while I tell you everything that happens in the movie you tosser? I don't think so, my son. I am many things but a spoiler isn't one of them. Still, I will say this...

As stated earlier, I never thought Ledger's acting was ever anything to write home about. And while friends of mine (most of them lacking a Y-chromosome in their DNA) prattle on breathlessly in all matters regarding him, in my book Jake Gyllenhaal's Bambi-eyed choices in roles have never really spoken to me, personally, but I will stand up and admit that he was quite likeable in The Day After Tomorrow (a film I've written about on here) but I was more into that film's message, so that's a one off...Having prefaced what I'm about to say with all of that, I'm just going to dive right in and contradict myself, yo...

Heath Ledger's marble-mouthed portrayal of Ennis Del Mar speaks volumes about what Gibson was pointing to years ago when nobody in the states knew who in the hell Ledger was. Turns out, Heath's got thespian karate-chops that some of us didn't know of, son. I've surpassed the point of conjecture and will venture to say that this here Aussie's got the Stanislavskian minerals because he holds the line throughout the film and makes Ennis Del Mar plausible. (I guess Mel was right on the money, cousin). Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, lucked out when he got the tap to play Twist. All of those sugar-sweet, cavity inducing roles (excluding the likeable Donnie Darko) that he'd portrayed in films past made him perfect for the role of Jack Twist -- who'd've thunk it? Twist is so left-field yet recognizably Jake that by the time the two main characters lock lips and the bulls start bucking in the rodeo ring you'll acknowlege a cinematic truth: Ang Lee knows what he's doing. And Jake can act. He's really, really acting! And it's great to see...finally! Good for you, boyo -- as the flick plays out note the color of Twist's stetsons --- they go from black to lighter and then eventually back to ebony -- dude's definitely going to make his bones amongst the congnescenti in critical circles with his turn in this film...and then there's the director...

Ang Lee's connection to his muse crackles like a bull whip on this outing -- you give this guy a juicy premise or a tale that requires adroit and nuanced touch to be explained to people sitting in darkened auditoriums and said inspiration will pulse like an oceanic shockwave -- evidenced by what you'll see on Brokeback Mountain. Lees the master of weaving multi-layered pastiches, rather, he works in fractals -- you have to stand way back and look at the whole picture to the beauty making it requisite to actually think on your feet about what you're seeing. He slowly reels you in with wide-as-hell upshots of open skies scudded with azure cloud formations, texturized with a quick quip about a clue of a side-story mixed in with a metaphor about travelling versus going to get a cup of coffee and then, BAM, the tsunami washes over you as he cuts to somewhere else equally important to the throughline but you just don't know it yet. You don't figure it out until you're turning your car key and sitting in the cineplex parking lot. He fucks with you and you'll love him for it. He's the man and that's word.

I'm recommending this film to everyone I know and also those I don't but come in contact with because, to be blunt, Brokeback Mountain should be seen by everybody...Brokeback Mountain is one of the best films I've ever seen and I type that without one scintilla of sarcasm or snark. Brokeback Mountain will tear your heart out and punt it between the big "H" on the other side of the storytelling playing field because it doesn't coddle. It just says what it has to say and I guaranfuggin' tee you'll hear it and see it -- if your ears and eyes are open. I walked out of that screening room feeling (borderline) chastened for not having thought about the subject matter more deeply than I had. When the credits start to roll your ass will not want to comply with your legs. You will want to talk about what you just saw. To somebody...I know I did...I had to and I did. Dialogue is a beautiful thing...Laters...

Sidenote: As a heterosexual man who's never given a whole lot of deep thought to the issue of same-sex relationships -- I'm not iterating here, I'm just being honest -- when I walked out of that screening room onto Wilshire Boulevard, I had a full understanding of what unequivocal love really means. Same-sex or no. Your mind never decides who you happen to fall in love with -- because your heart does all the heavy lifting. It's that simple. Just before I made it to the street, after the press screening, I chatted with the security guard stationed in the foyer -- which, for some odd reason, I always tend to do -- and he asked me "so how was it? I heard it was about some gay cowboys. That's Fucked!" he chuckled. To that I said, "no, my man, there's a trifle more to it than that. Don't be so provincial -- look at the bigger picture...I think you'd like it if you took that approach; focused on the empirical data -- what true love is and isn't -- if you took your wife or girlfriend, I know she'd think differently of you -- hell, you might even get you some that night" -- and I didn't blink. (I knew I was going out on a limb with this particular guy because he seemed dead-set on the notion of the whole gay thing being evil in that Scarlet Letter, pissing-on-tree-stumps sorta way that many of us breeders fall back on when asked a hard question about homosexual/ lesbian scenarios)...and then, surprisingly, he said "I'll do it. I'll take your word because you seem like a stand-up guy"...that's a good thing but, again I say, this film should be seen by everyone...STAT...double laters...


-- Brokeback Mountain will release nationally on December 9th...--

1 Comments:

Blogger mj said...

since the baby showed, i'm not able to see movies. however, i will look for this one, (after reading your piece,) in '07 when it gets to channels i watch after 9pm, (terra's bed time.)
nice work, as always.

5:05 PM, November 10, 2005  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home