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Brokeback Mountain (2005) – DVD Review

Brokeback Mountain DVD cover


Written by: Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana based on a short story by Annie Proulx
Directed by: Ang Lee
Starring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway


  • Featurette: “Sharing the Story: The Making of Brokeback Mountain”
  • Featurette: “Directing From the Heart: Ang Lee”
  • Featurette: “On Being A Cowboy”
  • “From Script to Screen: Interviews with Screenwriters Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana”

Released by: Universal
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Rent It

[ad#longpost]Two cowboys, Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal), get hired to watch over a sheep herd in the wide open spaces of Wyoming. All alone in the wilderness, they slowly become friends. And one night, they become more than friends. Confused by their feelings, they separate and try to go on with their lives: wives, kids, and trying to make a living. But that longing is still there. So they get together to “fish” every few months. Jack wants more, but Ennis is fearful of what people and society will think of two guys living together. In a battle between what draws two people together and what keeps two people apart, no one will win.

I’ve avoided this movie for a while now. First off, I’m not really a fan of tragic love stories, whatever the gender. I have enough in my life that’s depressing, why add to it. Second, for a movie that is supposedly groundbreaking, for a lot of gay people, this is a very old story. In both fiction and in real life, the lives of gay people have been damaged or destroyed by society’s prejudices and hatred. Ennis is so afraid of truly expressing himself, he’s nearly a hermit. Jack’s more open nature gets him in trouble that will ultimately prove fatal. While times are measurably better now than when Brokeback Mountain is set, the problems portrayed in the movie still face us. I think when we get a mainstream romantic comedy about two gay people where they live happily ever after will truly be the milestone, not this.

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain
Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain

With all that being said, this is a good movie. The story is about two men in love but unable to truly express it, but there is a universality that Lee brings that helps audiences identify with the characters. This story could have been easily about two people separated by race, class, or any number of artificial reasons. It helps that the movie is made in a stripped down style to allow the moviegoers to place themselves or someone they know in the roles. Lee uses wide shots of the Wyoming wilderness to illustrate the relationship: beautiful but hard, rough, and dangerous. It’s an irony that the two can expose themselves but also have privacy in the wide open spaces. The dialogue is spare, everything is communicated with only a few words and looks. Lee doesn’t push you, he gently guide you through their lives and allows you to see their love and suffering without shoving it in your face.

Of course without first class actors, Lee would have never been able to pull this off. We really lost an amazing actor in Heath Ledger. It’s almost impossible to believe that the same actor played the laconic taciturn Ennis and the Joker in The Dark Knight. Such a devotion to creating and portraying a character is rarely seen and will be missed. Gyllenhaal gives a nuanced performance where you’re never sure if his character is driven to be more outgoing by love or lust. Part of you understands Jack wanting more from Ennis and their relationship, but you also worry that Jack never truly appreciated the reality in which they live. Attention should be given to the women affected by this relationship as well. Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway really show acting chops as the wives who have to deal with their husbands’ relationship. What’s interesting is that the two women exhibit traits of the man their husband is involved with. Williams is more vocal about what her husband is doing risking his anger like Jack and Hathaway is more contained in her sense about what her husband is, like Ennis.

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal kiss in Brokeback Mountain
Yes, it's two men making out. Keep Calm and Carry On.

The extras are fairly decent. The making of featurette from the LOGO network is informative but the tone is too enthusiastic and makes it more like a commercial. The other featurettes are short but do give insight into various aspects of the film from learning how to a ride a horse to Ang Lee’s interest in stories about love thwarted by outside forces. You do wish there was more like a commentary or a more in depth making of featurette. Even with that reservation, I do people should watch Brokeback Mountain and see that it’s more than “that gay cowboy movie.”

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