Home Entertainment Brokeback Mountain Review: A Controversial Groundbreaking Film About Homosexual Cowboys

Brokeback Mountain Review: A Controversial Groundbreaking Film About Homosexual Cowboys

Brokeback Mountain
Credit: Focus Features

Brokeback Mountain (2005) is an American romantic drama produced by Dianna Ossana and James Schamus. The film was directed by Ang Lee. It’s based on a 1997 Annie Proulx short story.

The screenplay was written by Ossana together with her writing partner, Larry McMurtry.

The movie deals with the complicated relationship between Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar. Action is set in the western states from the sixties to the eighties.

Critically acclaimed for Lee’s direction and also for the powerful performances of the lead actors, Brokeback Mountain made many top-ten lists compiled by film critics in 2005.

The film was also a hit at the box office, grossing $178 million worldwide against a $14 million budget.

“Brokeback Mountain was enmired in controversy and also viewed as a turning point for the advancement of gay cinema into the mainstream.” said film critic, Scott Cooper Florida.

Brokeback Mountain was entered in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for preservation in 2018.

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Brokeback Mountain Plot

Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar are hired by Joe Aguirre to work herding sheep in 1963. After drinking heavily one evening, Jack makes a pass at a reluctant Ennis. Despite being wary, Ennis responds to Jack’s advances. He then tells him it was a one-off, but they go on to become sexually and emotionally involved. Jack and Ennis part company and Ennis gets married to Alma Beers. They have two daughters.

When Jack returns the following year, Aguirre refuses to hire him based on what he witnessed of his liaison with Ennis.

Jack relocates to Texas and meets Lureen Newsome, a rodeo rider. They have a son together.

After a hiatus of 4 years, Jack pays Ennis a visit. They passionately kiss, witnessed by Alma. When Jack discusses starting a new life on a small ranch with Ennis, Ennis rebuffs the suggestion.

Jack and Ennis meet occasionally to go fishing. Both of their marriages are falling apart. Ennis and Alma divorced in 1975. Jack heads immediately to Wyoming when he hears of the divorce, but Ennis will not leave his children. Jack consoles himself with some male prostitutes in Mexico.

When Alma confronts Ennis about his relationship with Jack, they argue to the extent Ennis severs all contact with Alma. He then has a short liaison with Cassie, a waitress. Jack and Lureen make friends with another couple, Randall and Lashawn. Jack develops a relationship with Randall.

Ennis then gets a postcard in the mail he had sent to Jack emblazoned DECEASED. He learns that Jack died when a car tire exploded in his face. Lureen tells Ennis that Jack wanted his ashes strewn across Brokeback Mountain. Jack’s father interdicts this.

When a 19-year-old Alma Jr. tells Ennis she is engaged, she asks for his blessing.  

Development

Diana Ossana came across Brokeback Mountain, a short story by Annie Proulx, days after publication. When she showed this story to Larry McMurty, her writing partner, he proclaimed it a masterpiece. The pair approached Proulx and asked if they could adopt her story into a screenplay. She agreed and praised the resulting script.

Ossana explains it was not an easy task to find a director and a production company willing to take on the movie. Gus Van Sant tried to make the movie but instead went on to make Milk, the story of politician and gay rights activist, Harvey Milk.

James Schamus, CEO of Focus Features, took options on film rights in 2001, but he viewed it as a risky project.

Ang Lee took on the directorship.

Release

The film got a limited U.S. release on December 9, 2005. It grossed $547,425 over the opening weekend.

Brokeback Mountain grossed $83 million in North America and $95 million internationally. A total worldwide gross of $178 million made this movie Focus Features’  highest-grossing release.

International distribution

The film has different titles across different regions.

In the Middle East, the film’s distribution became a charged political issue. In most Islamic nations, homosexuality is a crime. It’s taboo in those few Islamic countries where it is legal. Lebanon was the sole Arab nation to show this film, albeit in censored form. The film was banned in the UAE.

Critical response

Brokeback Mountain opened to generally positive reviews.

On the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 87% based on 246 reviews.

On Metacritic, the film has a rating of 87/100 based on 41 reviews, translating to “universal acclaim.”

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