A bitch of an unsatisfactory situation

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.

4 replies on “A bitch of an unsatisfactory situation”

  1. I liked Brokeback very much, but it is such a spare movie. In many ways, I’d like to see Ang Lee win Best Director (the man is SO OWED – I watched both Sense & Sensibility and Crouching Tiger over the last few days) and either Crash (which I haven’t seen) or Good Night and Good Luck (which I have seen) win Best Picture.

    All the actors are very good in this movie, but Heath Ledger seems almost that quiet in real life, so maybe he’s acting a little less than people think.

  2. But should he receive Best Director for his work not on “Brockback Mountain” but on a different picture? That’s the kind of thing the Academy could easily do, and it’s one of the things that makes the Oscars ridiculous.

  3. C – I saw Brokeback over the weekend and I think your review is spot on. I liked the film well enough, but it didn’t move me. Cindy, I cry at movies all the time, blubbering at death scenes, heartwarming moments, sad soundtracks, etc. I even admit to crying at a friggin McCormick’s “come home to family” spice commercial one year. (Note: I had just had a baby at the time, so I’m hoping the hormones explain some of it). But not one tear did I shed during this movie. Perhaps it was my cold medicine that numbed me. At any rate, I rented Crash a day later and, for me, it would win Best Picture over Brokeback. (I think I even blinked back a tear during it, too.)

  4. Isn’t it funny to find oneself tearing up at sappy stuff? I do it all the time: a news segment about a heroic dog, a child prodigy playing classical music, Hallmark commercials. And yet I didn’t feel like crying during this either, although I felt very, very bad for all the characters in the movie. (Except Randy Quaid’s character. Ick.)

    I saw Capote over the weekend — that struck much closer to me, maybe because it was about writing or maybe because it was a better movie, I’m not sure. I left the theater feeling unsettled, as though there was just one more thing the film needed to say to me or that I needed to hear from it.

    For what it’s worth, I’d be more inclined to see Capote a second time, rather than Brokeback Mt.

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