Stories of forbidden love run rampant in film. Their storylines intrigue audiences with a passion that cannot be subdued, even if it defies familial laws or those of society. The headlining list of star-crossed lovers, such as Romeo and Juliet, and Jack and Rose may now include Jack and Ennis of Brokeback Mountain.
Brokeback Mountain finds Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar (Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger) working as Wyoming sheep herders. Deep within the title mountain, the two engage in a sexually-charged affair. The pair must eventually go their separate ways and the film chronicles their 20-year relationship that persists through loveless marriages and families.
The film is haunting, with much credit to Ang Lee’s direction of lonely and majestic landscapes and frustrated performances from Gyllenhaal, Ledger and Michelle Williams.
Brokeback’s cinematography is breathtaking. The Wyoming setting is vast and beautiful with clouds that look like they could crush any of the actors. It is the natural beauty of the setting that contrasts with the pain that the main characters endure.
Gyllenhaal and Ledger compliment each other and make a captivating duo. Ledger’s Ennis is quiet, but in such a way that the audience can see him carefully deliberating over his thoughts. Ledger gives a torn performance – he is visibly being pulled between his love for Jack and societal pressures.
Gyllenhaal is the more youthful of the two. He plays Jack with the charm of a naive, hopeful boy, and because of him, Ledger subtly shows a change as Ennis lets go of himself. Gyllenhaal gives a stunning performance of rage toward the film’s end, while Ledger conveys the same emotion with quiet heartbreak.
Brokeback Mountain is a love story, despite the controversy and the shock regarding the two main characters. It succeeds and the audience is able to forget that they are watching a romance between two men. It becomes merely a heartfelt love story.
Gyllenhaal and Ledger meet the task and establish themselves as true actors. They effortlessly throw aside inhibitions and allow their characters to overcome. They are intimate with each other and the depiction is not only believable, but heartbreaking. These will undoubtedly be crowning roles in the two young actors’ careers.
Williams as Ennis’s wife Alma plays a depressed and solemn country woman. Her performance is at times dangerously low-key, but later her character’s entire picture comes into view, and her portrayal is more realistic than anything else.
Anne Hathaway, star of such contrasting movies as The Princess Diaries 1 and 2 and Ella Enchanted gives a substantial performance, but is dealt a great injustice by the filmmakers. Her role as Jack’s wife Lureen is underdeveloped and Hathaway is not given nearly as much screen time as she deserves.
Alma is allowed so much development that it doesn’t make sense for Lureen not to. Furthermore, the story takes place over the course of 20 years and the characters age. Hathaway is not given much opportunity to portray her real-life age, and is immediately slapped with a horrendous wig to transform her into a 30 and 40-year-old woman.
Hathaway looks like a little girl playing dress-up. It is no fault of hers, but of the costumer and makeup artist, as the actress’ talents match the age that the script requires.
Unfortunately, her appearance doesn’t. Husband Gyllenhaal suffers a similar fate, as neither muttonchops nor that fake potbelly can make him pass for 40. It is a flaw that puts the believability of the film’s second half on the line.
Brokeback Mountain is an important film that could awaken audiences to the humanity of homosexuality and the strife with which society burdens people.
The risks that Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger have taken should deservedly catapult them into the higher echelon of actors who put their craft before their reputation. The film will force audience members to consider the most meaningful moments in their lives, and what is their own Brokeback Mountain.
Jesse North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.