I finally saw the “gay cowboy” movie, Brokeback Mountain, yesterday at a theatre near my home in Cobb County, Georgia (which has a reputation for not being very gay-friendly). It was showing on two screens, and the theatre was packed for a matinee showing.
The “gay cowboy” label does a disservice to the movie by trivializing it. Brokeback Mountain is the very moving story of two men who fall in love with each other in 1963 Wyoming – not at all a safe time or place to do so. The movie shows how the secretiveness of their relationship, and their inability to be true to their own hearts, causes pain for themselves as well as to others.
A friend of mine wrote, “Watching Jack Twist [one of the main characters] carry a lamb over his shoulders while crossing a stream made me think about all the Good Shepherd pictures I saw in Sunday School growing up; I choked up.” That scene reminded me of the Good Shepherd, too, as did the scene of Jack removing a thorn from a lamb's foot.
The one thing that didn't ring true to me was the initial sex scene. There was none of the awkwardness or tentativeness that comes with a first encounter (whether gay or straight). Those boys acted a little too experienced for me to really believe that was their first time.
I cried several times during the movie, especially at the end. It was a beautiful and deeply moving love story with an ending that I won't give away here, but I should have seen it coming, given that the screenplay was co-written by Larry McMurtry (who was also a producer of the movie). McMurtry's novels and movies always contain some element of despair, yet, like the stories of Flannery O’Connor, they are very realistic, sometimes disturbingly so.
I’m looking forward to getting the soundtrack CD, which contains songs by two of my favorite Americana singers, Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle – as well as a very moving cover (over the end credits) of Bob Dylan’s “He Was a Friend of Mine,” by Willie Nelson.
Above all, the movie made me deeply grateful, as a gay man, for the times in my life when I have followed my heart and been true to myself. I am grateful that I live in a time and a place where it is (relatively) safe for me to do so.