National Western Stock Show is in town, and it's a big damn deal.
For two weeks every January, cowboy from all over the midwest
fill every cheap and mid-level hotel in the metro area, and crowd
the locals out of bars and restaurants. They always wear their
Stetsons as a way to identify themselves. They bring boatloads
of horses, cows, pigs and ducks. And they leave shitloads of shit
all over the floor. You can walk around, look at the animals in
their pens, go to rodeos, then buy a critter, take it home and
turn it into jerky.
the Stock Show in town, I figured I'd see Brokeback Mountain.
I hear, though, that some people are shocked because it's a gay
love story. Most people weren't expecting to see a couple of bohunks
making out. That's because most people have never been to the
Stock Show. I have, a couple of times. And from what I've seen
I'd guess there are some cowboys who are openly gay. Let's say
95% of them. The other five percent are closeted. They're the
ones with the smaller feathers in their hats, or black eyeliner
instead of the purple the others wear this year. The Show is both
a literal and figurative meat market; an opportunity to have naked
rodeos, check out the stitching on each other's jeans, and roll
around in the hay, feeling it's cool, golden husk tickle the private
saw Brokeback Mountain Friday night, with Stock Show cowboys
packing the theater the same way they pack their denims: as full
and tight as can be. I got there a little late and had to sit
behind the biggest hat in the joint. So, my review is tainted
slightly by the fact I only saw the top two-thirds of the screen.
I couldn't hear much either because of the cowboys' rowdiness.
Every time Jake Gylenhall and Heath Ledger kissed or hugged, the
cowboys whipped out their pistols, shouted "Yee-haw!!" and fired
a few rounds into the ceiling. Even a wistful glance from long-lashed
Gylenhall would prompt a few to throw their hats into the air
or stomp their boots.
can't answer the media's hot-button question of whether America
is ready for a gay cowboy movie, but I can tell you that gay cowboys
are. And that's every single one of them.
Mountain starts with two alienated young men in the 1960s
who love ranching and meet while spending a summer together herding
sheep in Wyoming. Ledger is the quiet one. His parents died when
he was younger, and he has no home. Gylenhall is the louder and
more aggressive of the two. He dreams of being a rodeo star even
though he sucks at bull riding. Their relationship develops slowly,
from a common concern about doing the good job, to loneliness,
concern and drunken assfucking. The sodomy caused the most gunfire
in the theater and caused one patron to jump out of his chair,
whip out a giant lasso and swing it round and round as he screamed
the end of the summer, Gylenhall and Ledger go their own ways
and on to marriage, children, steady jobs. But both feel empty
without the other. Ledger marries Michelle Williams, a plump-faced
cashier who makes babies as easy as I make wet farts. Despite
kids and a wife, Ledger sticks to his cowboys dreams and works
on a local ranch, rounding up cattle, tying knots, sleeping on
dirt. Gylenhalll marries a wealthy man's daughter, stops chasing
his dreams, grows a Freddie Mercury mustache and a gut, sells
farm equipment and occasionally sneaks down to Mexico for a Dirty
Sanchez from the boys. During the Juarez scene, a few cowboys
at the UA Denver West shouted, "Bisteca!" Whatever that means
it led to more gunshots, hooting and hollering.
may or may not be gay. His physical interaction comes from his
genuine love for Gylenhall. Gylenhall genuinely loves him. Gylenhall's
character is gay, and needs physical contact from men. It's just
that he prefers to get it from the man he loves.
story follows the two men's troubled lives into middle age. They
meet up a couple times a year, lie to their wives about what they're
up to (although Williams suspects), and head back to Brokeback
Mountain for some sweet, sweet love. Or, as the cowboys I saw
it with said, "That dem thar's Grade A Rump Roast! Yeehaw!" Ledger
and his wife divorce, Gylenhall never loved his to begin with.
Ledger is not ashamed of his gay romance so much as he is afraid
of what would happen if others found out. He dates other women
and lives in poverty in order to pay his child support and still
be a cowboy. He forges a depressing life beyond Gylenhall because
his first love is ranching.
is a bit greasier. He has less moral backbone and more need for
Ledger. He lies more easily, and he's desperate. By the end of
Brokeback Mountain, Ledger could almost move on, but Gylenhall
becomes ragged and broken. He has convinced himself that what
is missing from his life is Ledger. He believes his old pal will
be the cure for all his shortcomings and problems.
truth is that, had they stayed together and been open, Ledger
and Gylenhall would have been screwed. This is obvious from the
beginning of the movie from its tone, which is standard New
Yorker short story. That is, nobody is ever happy, we just
pretend to be and true, deep sorrow is always one tiny revelation
away. You know right away that someone will be looking wistfully
off into the distance at the end of the movie.
don't know how much I could have liked Brokeback Mountain
if it hadn't been interrupted by all my fellow moviegoers drawling.
"Yeah, I reckon that's how I'd fuck him, too, with his drawers
down around his spurs and his hat all cockeyed like that," and
"Aw, shucks," and "Git along now, you li'l trollop!" Needless
to say, I flinched during the first few hundred pistol shots,
but I got used to them by end.
I liked it all right as a character study and less as a story.
I felt for both Gylenhall and Ledger because they're identifiable
and sympathetic. It might be a cliche to say the story transcends
the gay content, but it is a love story first. It's just that
if it weren't about two men, it wouldn't be very unique.
story is methodical. Some cowboys might say slow. A few hollered,
"Goldarnit, start kissin' again, you durn fools!" It loses a lot
of steam in the second half once it's established that it can't
end happily, but keeps moving toward an inevitable end.
setting of the movie, in Wyoming, is beautiful. The man in a black
hat nudged me at one point and said, "Who wouldn't want to do
some ass-reaming in those purty mountains?" Director Ang Lee gets
the details right. It's always windy there, and there are spaces
that are as flat as a taxi driver's ass. Even in the middle of
summer, the snow can come down pretty good. Some of the secondary
characters, too, were broad. This is particularly true of Gylenhall's
wife and father-in-law who are both almost cartoonish in their
has big ol' lashes that drive the cowboys more nuts than the tight
butts they proclaim a passion for in bumper stickers. His character
is a bit more obvious than Ledger's, and he acts it that way.
He's pretty damn good, just not exactly subtle. Ledger has the
Oscar-bait role. He's an Aussie playing a hardset rancher with
a drawl, and he has to do most of his acting with steely glares
and lip pursing. It's the sort of shit the people who give out
awards eat up like nitrous poppers at a Castro Street New Year's
Eve party. He is good, though. He has a good idea what those ranch-hands
in the Chuckwagon on 285 in Laramie are like at six a.m.: two
word sentences and lots of looking out windows.
weren't many dry eyes in the theater when the lights came up.
I wasn't particularly moved, but I'll be damned if every cowboy
didn't have smudged eyeliner and a quivering lip. While Ledger
and Gylenhall's love is unique, neither of them are particularly
special outside of it. The cowboys would disagree, though, and
many walked out hugging, sniffling and literally knocking boots.
One big ornery son of a bitch wiped his nose as he walked by me
and said, "Makes you think, don't it? I'm going back to camp tonight
and telling Cookie how sorry I am for making fun of his vittles."
Mountain is worth seeing, mostly because of how delicately
and sympathetically it handles its main characters. Three Fingers,
but for God's sake, try to see it with a bunch of urban phonies.
Those God damn gay cowboys are too fucking loud.
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