Controversy is one of those things in life that no matter how fast you run, you will never be able to get away from. And really, without controversy what would there be to talk about? I know, I know, there are plenty of “other” things to talk about in life, but controversy in Hollywood always seems to take a center stage. And back in 2005, it was at an all-time high with the release of “Brokeback Mountain,” a great film that can be found on DVD and one that featured Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway, the same two in the upcoming film “Love and Other Drugs.”
The story in this one follows two cowboys from two separate walks of life, Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), who for lack of a better term are broke and looking for work. The search leads them both to a Wyoming ranch, where they are quickly given the job of herding sheep up to a local spot dubbed Brokeback Mountain. A fairly easy task for both, but one that includes a lot of down time, time that enables them to get to know one another and enjoy the spectacular countryside together. But, something deeper was forming here, and one cold night when all inhibitions had been swept away, Jack and Ennis wind up sharing a tent and much more. The next morning after a few uncomfortable moments, the two agree to keep this night and/or affair under wraps, only it would be tougher than imagined once they realize how strong a bond they formed together. Years later as the two journey down what I would call the “chosen path of life,” they realize all the wife’s and children they would have could never match the secret love they found in each other back on Brokeback Mountain in 1963. And over the next 20 years, like clockwork, Jack and Ennis would occasionally meet for what they called a “fishing trip” to get away from the real world and just enjoy the bond they had built together, a bond that would eventually mean more than life itself.
It might have been questioned then, but you would be hard pressed to find anyone now that thinks anyone else could have done the jobs that Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger managed to do here. I knew Heath Ledger would be putting on his best performance to date, but to do it in such a raw nature was uncanny. His character’s pure timing of emotion and struggle’s of facing his true feelings for another man against society’s better judgment was unbelievable to watch. But, Ledger wasn’t alone, as Jake Gyllenhaal proved to be the perfect counterpart, offering up that playful side we don’t see from him all the time. And Gyllenhaal, who seems to still fly under the radar, continues to amaze me with all the dynamic roles he chooses to play. And here, he carries his character Jack with ease, often drawing you into the emotional struggles he had; seeing how easy it was for him to submit to this forbidden love, but how hard it was for his lover Ennis. And although it’s hard to say one was better than the other here, I think they equally deserved to win an Oscar for.
Taking on a topic of two men, falling for each other during the 1960’s isn’t on the top of many producer or director’s lists. Fact is, any story dealing with homosexuality is one that will undoubtedly be scrutinized and talked about, creating a wealth of controversy and buzz. But, that’s just the footnote to this extraordinary film directed by Ang Lee, which takes love and shows the passion that can be involved when a strong connection is made. That’s the heart of “Brokeback Mountain” and the only thing in my mind that should ever be talked about with this film, because the reality is, no matter how hard they try, people don’t choose their paths, their paths choose them and that’s really all this film tries to explain. It’s difficult to find a more genuine film than this, with all the breathtaking backdrops of the Wyoming mountainside, not to mention a cast led by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. So, despite an ending that was weak in delivery and intensity, this film manages to stay with you long after you finish watching it, proving that love stories, no matter what shape and size, are still some of the best produced stories in Hollywood.
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