While I’m on my adult bestseller reading drive of the “Fifty Shades” series, last week I watched the past controversial film “Brokeback Mountain,” for the first time in a few years. When this movie debuted, I remember the media frenzy, not just movie news, but also on news opinion. As I look back, I wonder why the excessive hype, besides the obvious non-cliché story of gay cowboys.
As usual, the best place to go with interest in a film is where it originated, in this case, the short story by Annie Proulx. I downloaded it on my kindle and read it in about an hour. This Pulitzer Prize winning writer to me earned her acclaim; this is a very well written story. For the film, ace writer Larry McMurtry had a reported role in the adaptation of the screenplay, which extrapolates extremely well by developing Jack’s wife’s character and softening up the gay guys, who in the original story are not only failures as husbands but are also indifferent, disconnected fathers.
Now that this film is in memory, the clarity of familiarity can puncture through the gloss of indignity. What Annie Proulx did is take a cliché of cowboys being macho men womanizers and created the same macho men womanizers with a private gay relationship. (The guys still liked the ladies). While it may have irked some people, as a writer, doing what she did by turning the expected into the unexpected, is what made the story. If Ennis and Jack chased women in the 1960’s for twenty years, it may have made a nice story, but doubtfully had the same impact on the audience.
I’m glad the controversy over “Brokeback Mountain” has passed over. Now that it has, sometimes writers can learn from other writers who dared to crash a cliché, and do it well. We lost a great talent in Heath Ledger. When we’re left with a down note, what we can do is appreciate the work of storytellers, both writers and actors.