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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Ang Lee
Cast:
Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Randy Quaid, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams, Graham Beckel, David Harbour
Writing Credits:
E. Annie Proulx (short story), Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana

Tagline:
Love Is A Force Of Nature.

Synopsis:
Brokeback Mountain is a sweeping epic that explores the lives of two young men, a ranch hand and a rodeo cowboy, who meet in the summer of 1963 and unexpectedly forge a lifelong connection. The complications, joys and heartbreak they experience provide a testament to the endurance and power of love. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal deliver emotionally charged, remarkably moving performances in a movie that is destined to become one of the great classics of our time.

Box Office:
Budget
$14 million.
Opening Weekend
$547.425 thousand on 5 screens.
Domestic Gross
$82.057 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 134 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 4/4/2006

Bonus:
• “On Being a Cowboy” Featurette
• “Directing From the Heart: Ang Lee” Featurette
• “From Script to Screen: Interviews with Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana” Featurette
• “Sharing the Story: The Making of Brokeback Mountain” Featurette
• Previews


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RELATED REVIEWS


Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 3, 2006)

As 2005 ended and 2006 began, everywhere you looked, all parties spouted their opinions about Brokeback Mountain. A tremendously polarizing film, liberals adored it and championed it while conservatives chafed at its tale of gay cowboys. It became exceedingly hard to find neutral parties as the two sides split in a decisive manner.

Along the way, the movie itself got lost. It seemed very difficult to view Brokeback as a film and not a social cause. Whether praise its message of tolerance or condemnation of its alleged assault on family values, few of the discussions of the flick actually focused on its merits as a piece of cinematic entertainment.

Perhaps that’s because Brokeback just isn’t that scintillating once we separate it from its controversial elements. It provides a twist on the standard love story but lacks the heart to make it truly involving.

Initially set in Wyoming during the summer of 1963, young out of work cowboys Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) gain employment on Brokeback Mountain. There they’ll guard sheep from coyotes. Stuck in the isolated setting, they eventually bond and their relationship turns sexual as the months pass.

When their time together ends, they go their separate ways and it seems uncertain if their paths will again cross. Both clearly feel a strong tie to each other, though the firmly closeted Ennis tries his best to deny this. He marries long-time girlfriend Alma (Michelle Williams) and attempts to follow a standard lifestyle. Jack also takes the straight path and ends up wed to sexy rodeo gal Lureen Newsome (Anne Hathaway).

Despite these moves, Ennis and Jack manage to reunite. They get together for occasional “fishing trips”, though they mostly get freaky with each other during those occasions. Brokeback follows their surreptitious relationship over the decades and examines how it affects their lives.

Frankly, it’s hard to find any real fault with Brokeback. It always remains impeccably tasteful and avoids obvious sermonizing. It would be easy for a film like this to pound us over the head with its message. There can be no doubt that the movie sympathizes with the plight of gays forced to live lives unfaithful to their true selves, but the story never succumbs to easy options.

It must be very tempting to make Jack and Ennis into martyrs and/or angels and also to demonize everyone else. Happily, they come across as real people with all the usual positives and negatives, and the same goes for most of the supporting roles as well. Sure, some of the characters are cartoonish; Lureen’s overbearing father seems especially one-dimensional. However, the respective wives don’t turn into the usual shrews or harpies; we feel real emotion for their situations as well.

I sure can’t criticize the acting of Brokeback. The male leads find the hearts of their characters and don’t offer easy heroics to make us like them. As for the women, both react in different ways to their distant, uninvolved menfolk, but both Williams and Hathaway present realistic portrayals. They behave the way you’d expect and stay true to the situations.

Add to that its progressive message and gorgeous scenery and Brokeback should be a slam-dunk success, right? Unfortunately, that’s not how I see it. One subjective problem stemmed from my foreknowledge of the story. I wish I’d initially gone into Brokeback with no awareness of its plot twists, as they made it too easy to see significance where none may really exist.

To be specific, I couldn’t help but be amused be the little character moments that foreshadowed the love affair between Ennis and Jack. They exchanged plenty of long, lingering glances before they got it on, and the movie seemed poised to connect them in this way. I’m not proud of my Beavis and Butt-head tendencies, but I must admit I giggled occasionally since I thought the film made it so clear where things would go.

But maybe that’s not the case and I only saw it that way because I already knew what would happen. If I’d taken in Brokeback with no earlier awareness, I may not have seen these scenes in the same way.

Or maybe I would have – we’ll never know. With or without this attitude, though, I simply find Brokeback to offer a curiously distancing affair. To me, that becomes its biggest flaw. The film seems so concerned with its underlying theme and its ultimate message that it forgets to offer an involving story and characters about whom I really care. Despite the best efforts of the actors, I feel for them as symbols but I never find myself truly interested in any of them.

In other words, I care about them because I’m supposed to care about them. Sometimes we root for movie characters simply due to conditioning, and that’s what happens here. Nothing about the personalities causes me to develop real feelings for them, but the situations and general issues lead me to want them to prosper.

While I applaud the subtlety and restraint of Brokeback, it ends up as a double-edged sword. The lack of passion leaves the movie with a cold center. That makes the flick one that earns my respect but not one that merits my affection or heart.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus C+

Brokeback Mountain appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A few minor deficits occurred but nothing terrible marred the presentation.

A little softness crept in at times. Some of this stemmed from the mild edge enhancement I noticed through the film. Most of the movie looked crisp and well-defined, but I thought things became a bit fuzzy on occasion. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, though, and no signs of source flaws occurred

Given its restrained tone, the movie’s palette followed suit. The outdoors settings boasted lush greens and looked very good, but much of the rest of the film went with blander hues. In any case, the colors were consistently accurate and decisive. Blacks appeared deep and dark, but shadows could be a little heavy.

Actually, the low-light shots usually seemed fine, but a few images were awfully dense. The prime culprit came from the scene in which Jack and Ennis first did the deed. I suspected this shot was intentionally shot, but it appeared dimmer than expected – and tougher to discern than I remembered from the theatrical showing I saw. In any case, the visuals of Brokeback didn’t excel but they were more than satisfactory.

To my moderate surprise, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Brokeback Mountain proved rather expansive. The outdoors shots opened up matters with a nice sense of environment, and the occasional louder element filled out the speakers well. From rodeo sequences to storms to other pieces, the mix broadened nicely and used all five speakers to very good effect.

Audio quality always seemed solid. Music was lush and full, while effects came across as accurate and dynamic. Most of the movie remained restrained, but the occasional louder piece was clean and concise. Speech appeared natural and crisp. This was a very solid soundtrack.

Given the prominence of Brokeback, the DVD’s roster of extras seems lackluster. These come from four featurettes. On Being a Cowboy runs five minutes, 44 seconds and mixes movie clips, behind the scenes bits, and interviews. We hear from stunt coordinator Kirk Jarrett, animal wrangler TJ Bews, executive producer/screenwriter Diana Ossana, wrangler Don Gillespie, director Ang Lee and actors Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. The show looks at the actors’ training to play the cowboy parts of the film. This short piece offers a decent examination of how the participants went through “cowboy camp”.

We focus on the director in Directing from the Heart: Ang Lee. The seven-minute and 27-second show includes remarks from Lee, Ledger, Hathaway, Gyllenhaal, Ossana, executive producer Michael Costigan, producer James Schamus, cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, costume designer Marit Allen, and actors Anna Faris, Randy Quaid, and Linda Cardellini.

The program reflects Lee’s directorial style and his work, why Lee took on the flick, the movie’s cinematography and visual elements, and how the director works with the cast. Occasional nuggets of useful material emerge here, but “Heart” mostly acts as a puff piece to tout Lee’s skills. We don’t get much meat in this fluffy program.

Next we find the 10-minute and 54-second From Script to Screen: Interviews with Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana. As expected, this presents notes from writers Ossana and McMurtry as well as Schamus, Quaid, Lee, Hathaway. Cardellini, Ledger, Costigan, and Gyllenhaal. The piece looks at Annie Proulx’s original story and its adaptation as well as troubles bringing it to the screen. We get details about the expansion of the short article into a feature-length film and learn what the writers wanted to accomplish. Though we get a little too much happy talk, they offer nice insight into their work and thought processes in this informative featurette.

For the final featurette, we locate Sharing the Story: The Making of Brokeback Mountain. In this 20-minute and 48-second piece, we get comments from Lee, Ledger, Gyllenhaal, Hathaway, Schamus, Cardellini, Ossana, McMurtry, production designer Judy Becker, composer Gustavo Santaolalla, and actor Michelle Williams.

After a basic recap of story and characters, “Sharing” looks at the short story, its adaptation, and move to the screen, casting, cowboy camp, locations, Lee’s work with the actors and their interactions, animals, shooting the love scenes, and reactions to the movie. Most of the information here already appears in the other featurettes, so don’t expect to learn much. “Sharing” emphasizes fluff since it exists to promote the film. It’s not very interesting.

The DVD opens with three Previews. We get ads for Pride and Prejudice, On a Clear Day and Something New. No trailer for Brokeback appears on the DVD.

Brokeback Mountain inspired passionate debate due to its themes, but the movie itself seemed strangely unaffecting. Though it does everything right on the surface, it never quite connects. The DVD offers reasonably good picture and audio along with some ordinary extras. I think Brokeback merits a look but I don’t feel it stands as a great film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0192 Stars Number of Votes: 52
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