Had I seen it before: I think I tried to watch it on TV one time but the commercials made it a pain in the ass, so I didn’t even make it halfway through.
Director: Ang Lee
Writers: Annie Proulx (short story), Larry McMurtry (screenplay) and Diana Ossana (screenplay)
Where you can stream it now: Starz
What IMDb says: The story of a forbidden and secretive relationship between two cowboys, and their lives over the years.
Why I picked it: I’ve been meaning to watch this for a while now, and had never gotten around to it. And it’s on Starz. And a recurring theme of this project has been “wait, is my Starz subscription worth it?” so here we are again.
What I liked: Prior to watching this, it never really crossed my mind how little representation we give to LGBT people from rural populations. When I think of stories set in middle America about gay people, I usually think of a gay teenager who feels “trapped” in his suburb and dreams of running away to New York City or San Francisco. I love how Brokeback Mountain reminds us that a so-called “manly man” can still be gay. A man who never learned about his same-sex tendencies until adulthood can still be gay. Such men can still love being cowboys, and have absolutely no aspiration to abandon that life for city life. They’re still gay, and that gayness is just as valid as that of more stereotypical.
I also think the movie does a great job of showing us that Jack and Ennis actually love each other. It wouldn’t make any sense for these two characters to just up and say “I love you, and you mean a lot to me.” And yet we never feel like they’re just friends with benefits. We never feel like ‘oh, they could just find other men to satisfy them sexually and it would be fine.” There’s something special about their relationship that’s super palpable, even if the characters oftentimes don’t explicitly acknowledge it.
What I didn’t like: The story somehow moves too fast and too slow at the same time. I had a little trouble getting into the plot at first just because both leads seemed so standoffish, both to each other and the audience. Yet later in the movie, it tries to cover so much ground so quickly that I was struggling to keep up. The movie takes place over 15-20ish years, and it was hard for them to pick and choose which moments needed to be included in their narrative. At times I felt like we were time jumping in every other scene. Both of these problems together meant that the movie never truly gripped me the way I wanted it to.
Will I watch it again: Maybe? I’m glad I watched it, but I can’t say I’m in any big hurry to see it again.
Who would enjoy it: People who like emotional dramas, especially if they’re willing to overlook some awkward pacing to get into the relationship.