Bringing the drama. So this is about two cowboys (Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal), sheepherding in Wyoming in the 1960’s. They fall for each other one drunken night, and this is about all of the fallout that they face, trying to keep this secret under wraps from the cruel real world. I had gone 10 years of my life without watching this film. It’s not homophobia or anything like that, I just hadn’t found the time, and I can’t exactly say I have a large background in gay/lesbian films/studies. This was a very important film when it came out, largely because it’s not something you see all that much of; sure it’s about as arthouse as they come, but it found its audience, gaining a Best Picture nomination along the way. It’s inarguably groundbreaking, but it came out a decade ago. So how does it still hold up? The answer to that question is very well.
“Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” takes on an entirely different meaning when applied to this film.
This is a riveting relationship drama, and it is amplified in that these two men are truly discovering their sexual identity; it’s not like these are flamboyant queens from Priscilla, unless you happened upon them in bed together, you would only suppose that these men are straight. They are so not traditionally gay that they are both married, which adds an additional layer of tension to the drama of it all. I suppose that is a testament of just how far we have come as a society; this takes place in Wyoming in the 1960’s which I don’t imagine is the most progressive time and place, but nowadays a man faking a loveless marriage while his true desires go without being satiated is practically unheard of. It’s really interesting stuff, and that’s what Brokeback Mountain really has going for it.
It also doesn’t hurt that these guys share genuine romantic chemistry together.
I would personally love to hear a gay man’s opinion on this film, because I’ve never brought it up before. As a straight man who likes to think of himself as being accepting and forward-thinking, I think this succeeds in everything that it is trying to do. It punctuates every single point it is trying to make regarding relationships, whether they be gay, straight, or just between parent and child or a plain old friendship. The acting is all top-notch, and both Ledger and Gyllenhaal lose themselves in their respective characters, Ledger especially. He has this thing where he doesn’t move his upper lip, and when you say the words “gay cowboy”, he is immediately what comes to mind. It’s arguably the most iconic gay movie out there, and it contains one of the most memorable quotes in a romance in “I wish I knew how to quit you.” This is a quality drama, and will teach you a thing or two about relationships.
Brokeback Mountain (2005) ****
– Critic for Hire