Friday, January 20

If you can't fix it, you've got to stand it

The other night I read Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain" (the short story) and was really surprised at its length (incredibly short) and its sweeping pace. It pretty much captures the life of Ennis Del Mar from late adolescence to late middle age in less than 40 pages 55 pages. And it is quite beautiful, though I would argue less beautiful than the movie simply by nature of the author's reliance on realistic verbal descriptions of events as opposed to Ang Lee's loving camera work that tends to make everything a little bit prettier than it could ever be in real life. The story's not as aesthetically beautiful, but it's more realistic and less mushy and sentimental than the film, which is sprinkled with tinkling music that made me think of some kind of relaxing nature documentary or something.

While you won't catch me complaining about watching Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal grope each other, I do think it would have been nice to see the two main actors bear a bit more resemblance to the way Ennis and Jack are described in the story. Ledger might have been a better choice for Ennis than Jake was for Jack, since we know that Ennis is, thanks to a life of working on the ranch, tall and lean with long legs and big hands, and that suits Ledger's description, but the story's Ennis has a narrow face and a high-arched nose, neither of which really sounds like Ledger. Jack is described as having buck teeth, curly hair and a meatier frame (which Gyllenhaal doesn't have any of, even though they tried to fatten him up with the tiniest fake beer paunch I've ever seen on film).

For the most part, the film stays as close to the text as possible, and expands it pretty naturally when needed. The film fleshes out the wives' characters quite a bit -- Lureen especially, since she's barely mentioned in passing in the story. But the real star here is Michelle Williams, whose Silent, Suffering Woman is classic. The added dialogue fits well with the dialogue that's already in the story, and everyone in the film does a superb acting job. There's just not that much to complain about, and you know how much I love tearing down movies.

I was actually surprised at how funny some parts were. The chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Ledger is playful and believable, and really fucking hot. The story isn't all sweet, though; it's about sacrifice and selfishness and social mores and how no existence will be quite how you want it to be, but you deal with what you're given the best way you can. Simple stuff, really. Archetypal ideas seen in a new and unusual way. And that's really all I ever ask for out of art.

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