Friday, June 16, 2006

Revisiting Brokeback

A while back, one of my myspace friends, Richard, posted a comment about Brokeback Mountain that prompted me to think about the movie. I was familiar with Annie Proulx, having read "The Shipping News", a novel written before her short story of two cowboys fighting for and against their attraction. Anxious to see the story on the big screen, I went with a group of friends to an opening night performance.

My first impressions were a mixed bag of sadness and an urge to declare that the act of loving someone of the same gender is to be embraced, not shunned. I also mulled over the scenes where the characters each allow their intense emotions to spill out. The scene where Ennis is crying after walking away from Jack comes to mind, as does the reunion between the two years later. Although I can debate that two closeted men would engage in such heated kissing within mere seconds after seeing each other after some 4 years, it was unarguably an impassioned, all-consuming moment.

I remember when I had those kinds of feelings. I can remember being so wild about someone that even being around her made me nervous and jittery enough to feel queasy, giving new meaning to the word 'lovesick'. I can recall a boyfriend who elicited fierce feelings of desire and longing that were almost animalistic in nature. I have confused love with lust and craved someone so deeply that I believed I was in love. I've ridden the highs of ardor and I've spiraled down to hit the rocky bottom of the lows of rejection as well.

The odd part is that these raging emotions are almost completely confined to my late teens and my twenties. Not that I'm claiming that I haven't felt incredibly deep emotions as a more mature adult---God knows I have. But my deepest, truest and most ardent feelings were not the hormonally charged roller coaster of my younger years. They've tempered like steel into a woman owned essence of love.

Which leads me to examine the leading ladies in the film. Alma & Lureen, wife to Ennis and Jack, respectively. I didn't feel sorry for the wives even though they married the men they loved but didn't get the life they expected. It was obvious that Lureen, the spoiled rich girl, was unhappy that Jack spent his vacations visiting Ennis. Whether or not she had discovered his predilection for men, it was obvious did not respect her husband. And Alma, who early on accidentally sees the men kissing, grabbing and groping like horny teens, spends the rest of her marriage embittered but silent.

Years after her divorce and re-marriage, Alma brings up the subject of Jack to Ennis and reveals to him that she knew they didn't actually go fishing on their trips. A mean confrontation ensues in which Ennis is a grade A ugly jerk. While most would wonder what was the point in bringing up the subject after many years, I thought it most telling. Alma, despite her unhappiness with Ennis' inability to keep a steady paycheck and his passion for Jack, still loved him. Pure and simple. She had divorced Ennis and accepted the attention of another man whom she saw as a kind friend. And she settled. She wanted a husband, a lover, a friend. A father to her children. But she settled, exchanging a deep love for solid devotion.

So now, months after seeing the movie, I not only empathize with the bond between the men, but also understand the love of their wives. Now I realize that the phone call between Lureen and Ennis had deeper meaning than a newly widowed woman being intentionally tactless with her husband's lover. I think she finally had some comprehension, some insight into their relationship, and as a final act of love gave Ennis more information than a wife would give her late husband's fishing buddy.

Love is a strange, strange thing.

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