Directed by: Ang Lee
Written by: Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana
Produced by: Diana Ossana and James Schamus
Runtime: 134 minutes
Chances of winning?
Way back the 2005 awards season, everyone was pretty quite sure this will the top prize. It won every Best Picture award available in the awards circuit, critical praise for the film was unanimous, it was an unexpected box-office hit, and it feels important enough to get the prize. And yet, that significance of the film also became its biggest struggle. While everyone (notable exception is respected film critic Roger Ebert) already hails Brokeback Mountain as the best picture of 2005, the Academy chose to go a different way and award the win to the long shot, but quite possible Brokeback’s contender Crash.
Several factors could have induced this film’s loss: the alleged homophobia is a possibility, members of the Academy could have been tired of the media frenzy of this film, Crash’s intelligently directed campaign is undeniable, among others. I don’t buy the argument that Crash won because it was shot in Los Angeles; honestly, who cares?
The Academy chose to do a very daring move of going against the hype, costing this film’s allegedly deserved title. But honestly, I think it was just a few votes away from winning, making this second in the voting.
The film is about two men, Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist, that were employed to manage a herd of sheep in Brokeback Mountain. There, they slowly build a friendship that led to unexpected romance. Now, being separated from each other was the thing that they least wanted, but as they were no longer needed, the two parted ways, albeit with deep regrets.
They went on with their lives. Ennis married and had two daughters. Jack also married, and had one son. Despite all this, their connection never stopped, leading them to an adulterous relationship. It destroyed Ennis’ marriage, but not Jack’s. As they go on with their lives, they find that all they have got is each other even if it is against the society’s stand on their sexuality.
It is quite surprising that this film created such big impact in the movie industry scene. Aside from the direct treatment of the sexual politics which is not a first in cinema history, there is not much to talk about this film in that aspect. Maybe because it is a movie discussing a long-time taboo with two big Hollywood stars. I do not think it is revolutionary or earth-shattering in the sense that it changes a lot of things.
And yet, it is a very emotionally weighty film. The film has such richness in it that the story has completeness in the story and the characters. The tenderness of the romance feels genuine, and the rawness of the married life, both in the life of Ennis and Jack, feels so true. The wonderfully written screenplay illustrates the aches of each character, the pain of the circumstances, the tragedy that resulted from long-lasting love, the sorrow embedded in every pleasure, the regret in every mistake committed, and the things that make us humans live a life of complications.
That is what makes the movie such a powerful and moving experience. It provokes us to react to these people because we get to see the rich characterization of each person in the story, making the movie a compelling emotional ride. The screenplay is brought to life with the subtle but assured direction moves the story with very effective pacing. It lets the scenes take their time for the film to come to life, making the story more absorbing.
The film does not go for stylized gloss. Instead, it strongly relies on the performances and the story itself. One notable technical aspect is the music that, by its use of a sad guitar as its primary and notable instrument, creates an emotional restlessness that furthers the power the movie inflicts in each viewing. The music conveys what the story is all about – the simple things that we feel and the emotions that cannot be put into words.
Of course, what makes the film work a lot is the acting by the strong cast of actors. Anne Hathaway’s character is rendered with warm toughness whose gentleness goes in conflict with her steel femininity. Michelle Williams sheds all vanity and glamor for a role that demands her to fulfill a role that is full of modesty and to project the unspoken sadness in her unsatisfied life.
Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent as the eager Jack Twist whose craving for satisfaction and the longing for connection with Ennis feels authentic. Heath Ledger is best in show as the suppressed half of the forbidden relationship. His reserve does not come off as fake whatsoever. Instead, it completes his character, making us feel him more. Together, Gyllenhaal and Ledger share a natural chemistry that makes us root for this couple.
If you may have noticed, I have used the word emotion a lot in this review because that is what I got from this film. I still do not get the noise surrounding the film, but the emotional content of the film is not to be challenged. The film is a powerful story of love and loss that crosses time, society, and gender. Emotion – that’s what I will come back for in this film.
For this, the film gets:
So, agree or disagree?