Saturday, February 04, 2006

Sometimes you really do need to quit him, Jack



"Tell you what, we could a had a good life together, a fuckin real good life. You wouldn't do it, Ennis, so what we got now is Brokeback Mountain. Everthing built on that. It's all we got, boy, fuckin all, so I hope you know that if you don't never know the rest. Count the damn few times we been together in twenty years. Measure the fuckin short leash you keep me on, then ask me about Mexico and then tell me you'll kill me for needin it and not hardly never gettin it. You got no fuckin idea how bad it gets. I'm not you. I can't make it on a couple a high-altitude fucks once or twice a year. You're too much for me, Ennis, you son of a whoreson bitch. I wish I knew how to quit you."


--Jack Twist, Brokeback Mountain


After viewing Brokeback Mountain, I was quite aroused. With anger, that is.

I really couldn't feel much beyond that, and pity, for Ennis Del Mar (acted with great economy and precision by Heath Ledger) and other living breathing people very much like him. Repressed, broken, ambiguous and lost people who realize, only too late, exactly who and what made risks worth trying and life worth living.

And that your real failing came not from having those feelings, but from not being willing to bravely follow wherever they led.

Straight. Gay. Asexual. Whatever.

None of that matters, because for some people love is something only truly understood in retrospect. When you can hang that person's memory in your closet and visit it from time to time, but not - God forbid - when you could actually take the bull by the horns and make the most of the time you have together.

Yes, part of the problem was the fact Ennis and Jack were gay before gay became chic. Obviously that's a big deterrent to living an authentic life.

But even in his allegedly socially acceptable life with his wife and, more criminally, his daughters - Ennis was unable to set aside his own wants and needs long enough to truly give something back -- even a little bit.

Try a little tenderness, Ennis. It's not gonna kill you. And look what the lack of it has done to your own daughter: she's just as sad and lost.


Then I wanted to turn around and shake Jack Twist (the robbed Jake Gyllenhaal, the heart and soul of this movie and who should've been nominated for Best Actor).

"Jack, honey -- I've been there! He's just really not that into you - at least not enough to overcome that miasma of repression and hurdle that Brokeback Mountain of emotional distance he's using as a roadblock to his own happiness!"

(Unfortunately, director Ang Lee cut this part - my stellar scene-stealing, Best Supporting Actress turn -in favor of letting this movie go on and on and on and on to its inevitable depressing conclusion.)

Moving beyond themes, the film itself earns its Oscar buzz. Still, it's not without serious flaws. The final third of the movie provides emotional resonance and payoff, but getting there is longer and more painful than Frodo's trip to Mt. Doom.

Speaking of repressed desire and love on a mountain. . .I think Sam and Frodo had it all over Jack and Ennis.

For one, their relationship was simply more developed and believable. They truly were soulmates who went through a whole lot with - and for - one another. No such buildup in Brokeback. A little chat, some beans, bad harmonica playing and wham, bam, thank you, Mister.

It's not the furtive sex scene. That was utterly realistic and believable, exactly what you'd expect with two people who are overwhelmed by one another, beyond rational contemplation and completely in thrall to their desires.

Getting there? That was the problem. I just didn't buy the build-up, because there wasn't any, really. It was like two bar buddies after a couple of rounds suddenly decided to do the throw-down, out of nowhere. Lust, yes. Love? Not so much.

Why Ledger's getting so many rave reviews is both the blessing and the curse of his performance. Tight-lipped, stiff and impervious, his Ennis is a blank slate onto which audiences can project their own desires, fantasies and beliefs. Yes, it highlights his inwardness and increasing claustrophobia among the emotions trapped inside. But it's also an easy way to create an impression of "more" when maybe what you see is exactly what you get.

It's economy of motion and emotion in the best and worst possible ways.

Poor Jack. Poor Jake. Pouring out their hearts and souls, eternally optimistic, generously loving and endlessly forgiving: neither of them stand a chance of being appreciated, by Ennis or by the audience.

Trust me, Jack. You need to quit him.

And I know just the man to help you do it -- the beguiling, conflicted and cerebral Truman Capote. He's not repressed. Not only that, he knows exactly what he wants and is willing to go as far as possible to get it. You two have a lot in common. Sometimes it's just better to go around that mountain, rather than try to climb it.

Besides, what if you finally get to the top, only to find nothing there?


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