Last night I went to see Brokeback Mountain. I went with my handsome friend John. His wife Michele set it up.
Both of them wanted to see the movie, but they’ve got two little babies and a small budget that requires they limit babysitting. Typically they take turns seeing movies, one staying home while the other goes to the movie, the two of them tag-teaming the childcare.
For this movie though, John felt he couldn’t go alone. He teaches at the local high school, and this town is conservative and small. He was convinced that if people (parents, teenagers, concerned citizens) saw a solo male attending a showing of a movie about gay cowboys, they would draw conclusions that could threaten his job.
So, he needed a chaperone, and that chaperone had to be female. As a result, I got a home-cooked meal (Michele is an excellent cook) and a free viewing of an Oscar-nominated movie in the company of an intelligent and good friend. My life has its special rewards.
Note please: I continue to be astonished that a solo man attending a movie with homosexual themes could be more controversial than a married man attending a movie with a single woman while his wife sits at home with their toddler and infant.
But to continue. I was not blown away by the movie, although I found the performances, direction, and cinematography all excellent. The thing is, it’s a sad story. It verges on tragic — and I don’t use that word lightly. I could feel the tension of the characters, how impossible their situations were. Even so, the story didn’t hook into my heart. I left touched but not noticeably changed.
I’m struggling to articulate why. Maybe it was a backlash at how much hype the movie has been received. I think it has something to do with the main character, Ennis: I understood that he felt trapped, intellectually I understood his dilemma, but as a person I have never perceived myself to be so limited as he was, and the movie somehow didn’t evoke that sensation in me. The limiting factor could have been me or the movie, I don’t know. I know only that it didn’t do it for me.
At least I stayed until the end. Two couples left during the showing I attended: The first, a broad guy and smaller woman during the first love scene, the second during the second. As John asked later, “Did they not know what the movie was about?” My guess was that they did know, but they didn’t know how much would be shown on the big screen and how much implied. Or perhaps they were more surprised by the limits of their own tolerance.
Possibly the female of each couple persuaded the male that it wouldn’t be like what it sounded, and once those scenes started the guys concluded that yes, it would be. Sad for them then that they didn’t stay, as there was little more physical action than those two scenes.
Then again, that’s just my read. Maybe there was more than I’d taken note of. Moral judgments aside, anything you haven’t seen before surprises you. I’ve lived in cities like Boston and San Francisco, and though I’ve always considered myself open-minded, I’ve probably forgotten how surprising various sights were to me the first time too.
Ever since the movie had launched, I’d heard friends predict it wouldn’t play in Butler. I maintained that it would, especially if it won an Academy award — turns out that all the movie needed was to be nominated to get such pervasive exposure.
I don’t think it should win Best Picture, but every performance in it was worthy of note, and the cinematography was gorgeous. And I’d like to nominate the Regal Cinemas at Moraine Point a little award of its own: Bravest Cinema in a Provincial Town.