In Which I Jump on the Brokeback Train

So I finally dragged my ass to see Brokeback Mountain and see what all them queers be getting in a tizzy about. My feelings on the movie are somewhat unsettled.

To be sure, it is a brilliantly acted, brilliantly directed, brilliantly produced, all around brilliantly made film. If it gets snubbed at the Oscars I may have to toss a Molotov Cocktail at a certain building on Wilshire.

That said, it isn’t the kind of movie I’d enjoy seeing repeatedly. The movie is, if anything, entirely too successful at telegraphing the intense loneliness that pervades every aspect of the lives of the four main characters. When we meet Ennis and Jack, they are lonely guys in search of work. While on Brokeback, they are lonely until their passion explodes. After Brokeback, they spend their entire lives seeking unsuccessfully to fill the void created when they parted. Even their “fishing trips” are but islands of passion in this lonely sea, and even then, they serve more of a reminder of what they lost than what they have. Ennis makes not a single real connection in the movie. He’s closed to his wife, only passingly interested in his kids, and drifts from job to job. Jack finds a convenient life with his wife, asshat father-in-law and small boy, but even then, their marriage is never what one would call happy or healthy, with Jack sneaking off to Mexico to slake his manlust when Ennis is unavailable. When Ennis finally decides he might be able to indulge Jack’s vision of a life together, we are treated to Jack’s violent death.

The movie makes you so numb with loneliness that it’s difficult to have any other emoiton. I’ve read of people crying their eyes out in the movie. I myself only got misty when Ennis seizes Jack’s bloodstained jacket and shirt and cries himself out. This single scene is a microcosm of the movie in general, with Ennis meeting Jack’s parents, who might as well be paper dolls, in an otherwise desolate area. Sterile and cold, the only connection we see is Ennis and Jack (through his literal flesh and blood on the jacket), but even this connection is incomplete and too late. This climax of grief is the culmination of the film’s pervasive lonliness, and that’s what made me tear up: the idea of living a life so full of people and richness but not being able to partake in any of it.

We get some consolation in the final scene, in which Ennis agrees to attend his daughter’s wedding rather than escape in his work. After she leaves, Ennis visits his makeshift shrine to Jack, and we realize that Ennis has changed in some small way, embracing other people in a way he couldn’t when Jack was alive. Small consolation, but it keeps people from slitting their wrists right there in the theater.

So, like Crash, this is a brilliant movie, one which I’ll probably buy when it’s released on DVD, but it’s not an easy movie to watch or to ponder.


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