Handyfilm etc

Film reviews and other thoughts

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Location: New York, New York, United States

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

Note that this is stitched together from a few different e-mails back in Dec and Jan...

The movie is good, very good. I felt a bit let down....because the hype has been so intense for so long, this was possibly inevitable.

Heath Ledger's performance is a great work of art, however....he completely transforms himself into another person....a person you and I recognize, for he is our high school classmate, our cousin or uncle, that emotionally frozen macho guy who can barely get words out, so unable is he to recognize and act on his feelings. The movie's power derives from the conception of this character and the beautiful performance. It is really heartbreaking. [Jake is of course very good too, but he is not the center of the movie.]

Two interviews with Annie Proulx....
She talks about the origins of the story, whether it's a real place, the misconceptions about the story and the film. Some excellent stuff [also some weird typos]. I don't believe there are any plot spoilers, but tread carefully.



For what it's worth, here's my take on Ennis and Heath Ledger. I read the story after seeing the film. The main difference I was aware of was the character of Ennis. The expansion and deepening of this man is the main accomplishment of the script and the actor - the depiction in the story is the merest sketch and suggestion. His painful inability to connect with and express his feelings is central to his relationship with Jack, but it also extends to his wife and his children [and the waitress he dates for a while] - and for that matter to himself when he is alone [most of the time]. The most touching moments in the movie for me were the paired scenes where Ennis tightens up and withdraws in emotional constriction and pain, and Jack gently says, "It's all right, it's all right." The first time it works - Ennis allows himself to be embraced. The second time he pushes Jack away...and it's all over. That "It's all right" is nowhere to be found in the story.

Ms. Proulx herself mentions how blown away she was by Ledger and by the script, in taking this heartbreaking portrayal of Ennis so much further than she did in 25 pages. The scenes with his kids, and in particular the final talk with his daughter about her wedding, give the character the requisite 'arc' that screenwriters strive for. He almost refuses to attend the wedding, which is in fact the reaction we expect of him....but then he relents and indicates he will be there. A glimmer of hope! And how did this happen? Because, too late, his feelings for Jack broke through his brier patch of a heart and connected him with his emotions. Thus the final scene [which is also the opening scene in the story], when he looks at his makeshift shrine and says, "I swear, Jack."

Ledger has more screen time than Gyllenhaal. It's Ennis's story - Jack is a catalyst, and he comes in and out of Ennis's life...not the other way around [at least that's the way the script is structured].

I adore Jake Gyllenhaal [did I tell you he's my dream casting to play Kavalier if they ever film Kavalier and Clay?], and I hope he gets at least a supporting nomination for his fine, touching [and funny] work in the movie. But I genuinely believe Heath Ledger's performance is right up there with Brando, Clift, and the other greats. He may never get another role like it.


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