December 16, 2005

Review: Brokeback Mountain midnight show

It finally came to my little burg today, so of course my favorite theater had a midnight showing last night. The Delightful Housemate and I have both been waiting for this movie to come out since it was announced almost two years ago that it was going to be made. So we spent the late afternoon pacing restlessly around the living room, sucking down coffee, and counting down the minutes, until finally we had to get the fuck out of the house and go eat something. For anyone stuck killing time in Santa Cruz and looking for a restaurant where one person can watch the other bolt down a huge, wrong, Gorgonzola-slathered steak and that person can watch the first person hoover down single-malt Scotch, I highly recommend the slightly crappy Hindquarter Bar and Grill.

He ate; I drank. We came home. We drank coffee. We went to the bar to meet up with a friend of mine. Drinks were had. Minutes were counted. Feet were tapped.

(Iâm trying to give a sense of the interminable wait here, by the way.)

All but one person left the bar at about twenty to midnight to go to the movie. The bartender observed that all of her customers were leaving, to which one delightful young man retorted, âWendee, if you had cowboys making out in the bar, Iâd stayâ â whereupon the one remaining customer said, âAll right, thatâs too much for me,â and left. The theater was reached. The movie was played.

Holy jesus, what a good movie. Itâs a great adaptation of the story. It got all the beauty and the loneliness and the affect of the story right without being over the top. It clarified the right things and left the right things ambiguous. In order to relate the viewing experience, I have randomly decided to tackle it in approximately four major movements.

*WARNING: SOME MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD, AND SOME ATTEMPTS TO KEEP IT VAGUE (has anyone not read the fucking story at this point?)*

FIRST HALF HOUR: THE PRE-FUCKING PERIOD: The setup is in some ways nicely done and in some ways problematic. Wyoming; 2 cowpokes. Both Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger establish that they are well qualified to sport cowboy hats. The development of their early pre-sexual friendship is nicely handled. It also sets up a nice pair of contrasting currents running through the film: even as it becomes sad later, it's funny throughout. In this early part the funny is more slapstick; later it becomes more wry. My Delightful Housemate pointed out that in this early stage, there are a few moments that seem heavy-handed in which, for example, Ennis is naked and bathing and the shot refocuses to show Jack very deliberately not checking him out. I agree with my DH to some extent, but I also think itâs in line with the story, where Jack is very clearly coded as âthe gay one.â My whole problem with the beginning of the movie is the decision to start it when they both show up at the ranch office looking for work â theyâve gotten rid of the storyâs outermost narrative frame, in which the story begins with Ennis, much later in his life, waking up in his trailer alone and having just dreamed of Jack. The main difference is that I was crying by the end of the first page of the story. In the movie, half an hour or so has gone by and I havenât shed a single fucking tear. I think that perhaps they were trying to remove unnecessary pathos by taking that frame off; I think the story lost some of its sweetness, and the wistfulness that comes from the longevity of the romance.

SECOND QUARTER: HOT HOT HOT!: The Delightful Housemateâs whimpery noises certainly increased in this section. Jack and Ennis fuck and wrestle around and eat elk and go home and get married and reunite and fuck. Itâs well-handled. Itâs hot as hell. Itâs pretty true to the story, except, as my DH again pointed out, the first sex scene, which cuts off abruptly before Jackâs charmingly cowpokey orgasmic moment. The sexual tension in this part of the film is only increased by â and in turn increases â the real romance behind the story. Weâre totally rooting for our boys. The most charming moment in the Del Mar theater occurred during the scene where Jack and Ennis are all post-coital in the motel and one of them says, âWhat are we gonna do?â, and someone in the audience yelled, âMove to Santa Cruz!â There was general applause and a-hootinâ and a-hollerinâ. It was good times. But not for long.

THIRD QUARTER: FRUSTRATION: The impossible relationship spins out over a 20-year period, marked as much by the increased bleaching and feathering of Anne Hathawayâs hair and the length of her fingernails as by Jack and Ennisâs âfishing trips.â Except as a sort of sundial reflecting the passage of time through Texas ladiesâ fashions, Anne Hathaway as Jackâs wife is pretty much a non-entity. On the other hand, Michelle Williams is amazing as Ennisâs wife. We feel an enormous sympathy for her as the frustrated, cuckolded (?) wife Ennis canât spend enough time away from fucking his fishing buddy. That sympathy is somehow not at all incompatible with the fact that weâre still rooting for Ennis and Jack and we know theyâre all in love and shit. Frustration count in this section: 3(?): Ennisâs wife, because sheâs being cheated on in a way she canât even bring herself to name; Jack, because he loves Ennis and keeps trying to reformulate schemes for them to be together, even as Ennis rebuffs all of them; Ennis, because he loves Jack and Jack canât understand why his romantic schemes are so stupid and dangerous as to be unthinkable. Hard to tell if Jackâs wife is frustrated, except that she stabs her adding machine kind of hard with her pencil. The precarious relationship between Jack and his father-in-law is beautifully handled. The Mexico thing is also well-handled. Unlike the story, the movie version occasionally breaks out of the focalization through Ennis in order to show us what's going on with Jack, but the majority of the time we're still with Ennis. Heath Ledger is a remarkable character actor; his tight eyes and his tired drawl are really nice. Ledger's Ennis is nicely fallible, but he's also got enough of a crust on him. This section of the movie stood up to the incessant interruptions of Drunk Colleague and Drunk Student, who were sitting right behind us in the theater. Drunk Student only shut up long enough to swig more Captain Morgan. Drunk Colleague kept grabbing me by the ears and kissing the back of my head whenever he thought I was crying. I wasnât yet, but I was seriously considering trying to retroactively lower Drunk Studentâs grade.

FOURTH QUARTER: IT ALL GOES TO SHIT: "You don't know how bad it gets," unless you've read the story. Ennis is a sad man. As with the story, there's no wasted pathos here; things suddenly just change. I cried. I didnât cry as much as I thought I would and possibly not as much as I did at the story, but I still totally cried. The sense of regret and devotion and loneliness was, I thought, wonderfully captured. The DH and I have not entirely agreed on whether the tire iron issue is settled in the film version; or rather, we both think it is, but it might be settled in some kind of authoritative narrative way, or it might just be settled in Ennisâs mind, which is kind of enough. The three ladies sitting to our left took out a full-sized Kleenex box and started passing it back and forth. Ennisâs visit to Jackâs parents was both illuminating and terribly sad. The end inserted some material that wasnât in the story, with what seems like a cheap attempt at redeeming Ennis via some superfluous interaction with his daughter. But when heâs left alone in the trailer, itâs pretty and sad again. Outside the theater, Drunk Student repeatedly asserted that she thought the last line in the movie was the best and saddest thing ever. I agree that it was nicely delivered.

It was a nice and sad and then hot and sad and then frustrating and sad and then pretty and sad and then sad and sad movie. I will probably see it several more times in theaters, as will the DH. We sat up for many hours last night variously picking it apart and then lapsing into ecstasies. Quoth the DH, falling backward onto the floor: âSuch a good movie!â Quoth I, head in hands: âSo sad!â

Posted by katie at December 16, 2005 08:00 PM | TrackBack

So I've been by here several times intending to comment, but each time I find myself unable to type much. But grrrrr ---- let's get it done:

According to IMDB the short story's italicized introduction was not present in the original New Yorker magazine publication of "Brokeback Mountain," but was added by A. Proulx only for the version found closing "Close Range." Thus, the framing of the movie is in line with that of the story as originally published (not helpful, I well, I think that the italicized introduction makes the story).

That being said, HOLY GOD! I WANT MY LIFE BACK! I HAVEN'T BEEN THE SAME SINCE SEEING THIS MOVIE! Several mornings I've woken up dreaming of Jack and Ennis, but I am not "suffused with happiness."

Katie, how did you fare the second time around? I don't know if I can do it. As you were texting me at the end of your second showing ("So sad...Sob")(translated out of roommate speak), my ex in NYC, EINYC, was just getting out of his first viewing, and he texted me: "Now I'm all fucking weepy and shit too." And then my Santa Cruz friend, "Tina," told me that when she saw it, she had to idle in the parking lot in her Lincoln and bawl for 20 minutes because she was in a christmas show and had to go perform onstage and had to get her shit together.

I didn't cry as much as I thought I would, but that seems to be part of the problem --- I haven't gotten it out of my system.

I could go on. How much more is there to say? The movie is great. The weakest parts of the film were the scenes added in the screenplay, not present in the original, meant to fill out the characters: esp. Ennis and his wife fighting about dinner, Ennis beating up biker bullies at the 4th of July festivities, Lureen and Jack arguing about his blue poncho, Ennis and his daughter discussing her upcoming wedding, etc., etc.

I do think that if the movie had followed the story in its opening and framing, as well as in its ending, it would have been far sadder and it might actually have killed me. At the time I saw it, I was miffed. Now I'm a bit relieved.

xoxo, Delightful Housemate

Posted by: Delightful Housematw at December 22, 2005 11:02 AM