Don’t break your back for ‘Brokeback’

“Brokeback Mountain” has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, and the only explanation I have for that can be summed up in one word: hype.

It was hyped as such a moving story of two people who fall in love, and feel forced to hide the relationship from others.

Everyone believed it was so moving. It was a controversial, homosexual love in Wyoming in the 1960s, so maybe I just didn’t get it.

But what I did get was bored.

It went on forever, and while I’m not against long movies, I am against movies that just drag on. All three “Lord of the Rings” were long, but they didn’t drag. This one did.

It’s almost ironic that the movie goes on forever, because it’s based on the Pulitzer-Prize-winning short story by Annie Proulx of the same title.

I guess I was supposed to be touched by the love story. But I wasn’t. The only time I had any feelings in this movie was at the end. And I can’t even tell you about that without ruining it.

So let me tell you how it starts.

Two guys, Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) show up to the work trailer of rancher Joe Aguirre (Randy Quaid) looking for work.

You see the first, not-so-subtle, sign of homosexuality from Jack, who is staring at Ennis. Aguirre sends them off to work as sheepherders on Brokeback Mountain.

This is when their relationship develops into camaraderie and intimacy, sharing the tent and enjoying each other’s company. They stick to their convictions that they’re not “queer,” as they put it, as they go on to marry their girlfriends and start families.

Ennis stays in Wyoming and marries his girlfriend Alma (Michelle Williams), and has two daughters. Jack goes to Texas, marries well-to-do rodeo queen Lureen Newsome (Anne Hathaway), and has a son.

Four years go by, and Alma brings home a postcard from Jack saying that he’ll be in the area and would love to stop by. From the second Jack steps out of his beat-up truck, the two are instantly re-connected, and hide away so they can express the affection they still have for each other.

They didn’t do a very good job of hiding, as Alma catches them while standing in the doorway. Throughout their marriage, she never says anything.

More time passes, and they meet up several times a year, calling each other “fishing buddies.” The movie continues to follow these two and their personal struggles for 20 years.

That’s a long time. But it’s not like Jack didn’t try. Several times Jack would offer up solutions on how they could be happy and live together. But Ennis would always shut him down. Sometimes, I felt like saying, “find a place where you can be happy and end this movie already.”

It was all hype, and maybe that’s what ruined it for me. I saw this movie at the Varsity Theatre in Honolulu last month, before the Golden Globes, before the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and before the Oscar nominations, and was really disappointed.

I had heard so many good things about it, but didn’t see what the big deal was.

Maybe I just didn’t understand how bad their situation was, but the movie didn’t help me understand, either.

When I saw “Pride and Prejudice” last week, I had no idea what it was like to live in that era, but I understood Jane’s heartbreak and Lizzie’s conflict.

“Brokeback” didn’t help me feel what they were feeling. I didn’t sympathize with either of them until the very end.

I never really thought Ledger’s performance was all that strong. It seemed as though all his feelings of sadness were forced and not natural.

I thought Gyllenhaal’s and Hathaway’s performances were strong and believable, though. I was unimpressed by Williams. Most know Williams from his “Dawson’s Creek” days, but I never watched that show.

In the movie they only had one summer at Brokeback Mountain, and yet somehow we had to watch them for 20 years following that summer.

The cinematography was nice, to a point. Nearly two hours in, I was thinking to myself, if I see another wide shot of that mountain or a countryside, I’m just going to have to be done with this movie.

I feel as though the only thing this movie has going for it is the star power. If it wasn’t Ledger and Gyllenhaal in a love story, I don’t think anyone would care for this movie.

If Ledger hadn’t broken up with actress Naomi Watts and hooked up with costar Williams, people never would have been curious to see the “chemistry” between the two that was maybe the source of the break-up. It was, and is, all hype.

But they did a good job with the hype, scoring acclaim from almost everybody under the sun, except me. Check it out for yourself at the Kukui Grove Cinema in Lihu‘e, and let me know what you think.

Of course, I have been wrong before. I didn’t like “Gladiator,” and that went on to win the best picture Academy Award.

Had it not been for the fact that I will do Oscar predictions, I probably would have just rented it. Unless you’re curious to see what all the hype is about, I wouldn’t break my back over this movie.

Lanaly Cabalo, lifestyle writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or lcabalo@kauaipubco.com.

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