I didn’t see Crash, but I “broke”-down (pardon the pun) to see Brokeback Mountain.
First off, Carlos just didn’t want to see this movie. Not because of the gay theme, but because he felt that he would be bored by a “paced” movie. He also said that he didn’t want to ruin his view of cowboys. Coming from the John Wayne era of Westerns, I could see his point. So I left him home. I went with my mom. I was pleasantly surprised at how beautifully filmed this movie is. It was believable, committed, subtle, and it left just enough inference, respecting the audience. I really hate films that “dumb” difficult subject matter down assuming that the audience is filled with slack-jawed yokels who don’t understand the concept of voluntary suspension of disbelief. “Ain’t that Heath Ledger? And ain’t he dating the woman that’s in the movie? Ain’t she preggers with his baby? What’s he doin’ in a gay movie?” Now even though I’m sure some of these people still exist, I wouldn’t want to be around ’em when I’m watching this film. There’s a whole ritual that I undergo when watching movies, but that’s another entry. For now, let’s focus on the greatness that is Brokeback.
First off, this movie is subtle. It doesn’t (contrary to the conservative’s belief) shove homosexuality down your throat. It isn’t traditional, but it is a love story. The sweeping landscapes, the longing, the awkwardness, the interludes are all the same as any love story. But more so, there is a distance here that cannot exist in say, a Meg Ryan romantic comedy. Longing is an understatement because these men are not only bound by a society that doesn’t accept any love between two men, but especially not cowboys. I mean, it may be okay to dress up like one to sing, “YMCA”, or to wear chaps in a cliched-pseudo-sexual-homo-erotic movie, but not in classic Western. Cowboys are always depicted as such “men’s” men thanks to Turner Classic movies and Marlboro ads. That’s why despite myself and my progressiveness, I still cringed when these two wrestled each other in a tent. It was the first time that a same-sex relationship–among cowboys–was treated with honesty on the silver screen. They could have been any other couple roughing it out there on a mountainside.
~ POTENTIAL SPOILERS HERE! ~
There are definitely some really great things happening here. The prejudice and biases are all sweltering underneath. There are cutting remarks but only below the surface. When the character of Joe Aguirre, played well by Randy Quaid says, “You boys sure found a way to make the time pass up there. Twist, you guys wasn’t gettin’ paid to leave the dogs babysittin’ the sheep while you stem the rose.” The line is suggestive, not blatant. Also in the underhanded verbal stab about pneumonia, you catch Aguirre’s meaning. It’s all in the matter of phrasing.
This movie does not spare women in the least bit. It focuses on their participation in the whole charade that allowed these cowboys to pursue one another romantically. Keeping up appearances. And it is with this in mind that the female characters are all dealt a blow with the spotlight of truth. Each of them fall victim to their own dark forces. I know it sounds bleak, but indulge me, okay?
- Alma, Ennis’s wife, suffers from silence. Her name (in Spanish) means “soul”, but she actually is lacking in this department. She is hiding throughout the movie, never confronting the lie even when she sees her husband lip-locks all over his “fishing buddy”. Secretly, Alma knows what’s up. Outwardly, she ignores it. Even when they divorce, she never admits to what she saw. Not even when she remarries (settling for her co-worker) does she ever come out with it. She just alludes to it. Her flaw is trying to hide that which cannot be hidden.
- Lureen, Jack’s wife, is so aloof and driven that she overlooks her husband altogether. She, motivated by money, cares more about the running of her Daddy’s business than her marriage. She is unfeeling, unattached to her suspicions of her husband’s infidelity, and even more so, uninterested in the frequent trips to Brokeback Mountain. As Jack describes, “As for the marriage, we could do it over the phone.”
- Cassie, the woman Ennis meets at a bar, wants to blame Ennis for her poor choices in men. When she finds Ennis, she is looking to find a meaningful relationship in, of all places, a bar. She sets herself for failure with her “damsel-in-distress-come-save-me” attitude. When Ennis responds that it was “fun” while it lasted, she snaps, “Girls don’t fall in love with fun!” Her trapping technique is intended to force a man to settle down. Scrambling; she’s got some poor fool waiting for her by the ladie’s room door while she chats it up with Ennis, who is obviously not interested. Sad.
- LaShawn Mallone, friend to the Jack and Lureen, is so talkative that she’s missing what’s around her. From the moment she appears on screen, she chatters on and on about nothing. She hides behind her facade of normalcy while her husband, Randall propositions Jack. The chatterbox characterization is a commentary on women who don’t listen. By filling in the socially awkward moments with endless fodder, LaShawn is missing out on other people’s points-of-view as well as the obvious elephant in the room. Her husband has homosexual tendencies and she doesn’t know him well enough. In a bad case of projection LaShawn says of her husband, “He wouldn’t listen to me if he was going deaf tomorrow.” Truth is, she isn’t listening either.
Silent But Deadly:
It isn’t just the women keeping the relationship quiet. Jack and Ennis themselves are ambiguous about how they feel throughout the film. Although Jack keeps pressing the issue, and although he initiates the relationship, he agrees to scheduled rendezvous on Brokeback. He also gets Lureen involved in this mess by having a child with her. Ennis is guided by a long-ago incident which affects his visions of ever having a future with Jack. Then, attempting to live a lie, he denies his feelings and begins a traditional life complete with wife and children. Ennis even goes so far as to say things like, “I ain’t queer” and “You made me like this”, even when he continues to keep his regular appointments with Jack.
Then, there are Jack’s parents. The mother who knew (thanks to her meticulous room-cleaning) keeping it “just as he had it when he was a boy.” It was she that theoretically saw the hidden and blood-stained shirt of Ennis. It was she that helps Ennis place it in a brown paper bag as Jack’s father goes on about Jack’s dream to man a ranch out there with…someone else. See? What’d I tell ya about subtlety?
The Ending (With a Question Mark):
One has to wonder what in the heck Ennis meant when he says the final line in the movie, “Jack, I swear…” Is Ennis swearing never to be quiet again? Is he swearing to be true to himself and Jack? Is he swearing to bury Jack at Brokeback Mountain? I dunno. But it’s definitely intriguing to guess.
~ SPOILER OVER ~
Now if you read this blog entry minus the spoilers, then it isn’t much of a post. I hope you still go out and catch this film as soon as you can so that you can then read the spoilers and respond to what I wrote. Intellectual commentary welcome! Local Yokel, “What, you mean I can’t write about what I thought ’bout Heath Ledger?” The short answer is…no. Don’t even let me answer in long form. Don’t. Go. There.