Media Maven: A Tribute to Heath Ledger

Media Maven: A Tribute to Heath Ledger

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This review was posted at the release of “Brokeback Mountain” in 2006, a pivotal role in Heath Ledger’s career. His first popular mainstream role came in 1999 with “10 Things I Hate About You.” After that, he turned down several roles to keep from being stereotyped as a pretty boy/teen idol. His next big break came in 2000 when he played in “The Patriot” with Mel Gibson. Further success followed when “A Knight’s Tale,” cementing him as a leading man. He continued to deliberately choose more eclectic roles.

This fortitude became a driving factor in accepting the role of a prison guard in the controversial film, “Monster’s Ball.” Ledger’s character was from a racist family whose job was to escort prisoners to the electric chair for executions.

After “The Brothers Grimm” he starred in “Brokeback Mountain” with Jake Gyllenhaal. This film did many things for Ledger. He married his onscreen wife, Michelle Williams. Though their marriage did not last, they did become parents to a baby girl, Matilda. To the world at large, “Brokeback Mountain” was a mainstream film that brought to the forefront a story depicting the struggle and pain of two gay men and the people who loved them.

The following is a review and discussion about how the movie “Brokeback Mountain” influenced Cincinnati audiences.


“Brokeback Mountain” Brings Cincinnati into the 21st Century
Originally published in January 2007.

0208GIBBERMAN.gifOften movies of questionable taste, dubious plots or extreme themes seem to bypass Cincinnati theaters. Just about the only way we get a glimpse of foreign movies or those with divergent themes is through The Esquire, The Mariemont movie theaters or the Cincinnati Film Society.

Since August, trailers for the movie “Brokeback Mountain” have been at mainstream venues. The movie is about two cowboys who endure an intimate, clandestine, passionate relationship over a twenty-year period. It is a telling movie about the aching and the yearning of forbidden love as dictated by the cultural milieu of mid-west America and the stigma of being gay in the mid-60s and 70s.

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, two young, popular, mainstream actors, brought this movie to the big screen. Movies where the main characters live alternative lifestyles or are quirky in a less than conservative suburban reality (think “Closer” with William H. Macy or “November” with Courtney Cox) are usually minimally advertised in Cincinnati and are here for a brief run and rarely shown at AMC or Showcase theaters.

“Brokeback Mountain” has won four Golden Globe awards and critics predict Oscar accolades as well. Also impressive is its initial limited release of only six theaters in the country in mid-December. The movie’s popularity spread quickly and with fervor. National movie chains such as National Amusements began playing the film in its theaters only weeks after its limited release.0208_INSTORY_makebelieveball.gif

Perhaps its appeal is that at the very root of it, it’s a story about two people. In their story of living each day we see the same struggles, inequities and unfairness that life brings to us all at one time or another.

The movie trailers were very clear in depicting the story as two gay men discovering their needs while also living a life that conforms to the social constructs of the times. This story isn’t just about the frustration of the two main characters’ passion and heartbreak; it also shows quite beautifully how this story affects other supporting characters. Over a twenty-year period these men marry wives and father children, almost in resignation of knowing that anything less would destroy them as well.

“Brokeback Mountain” is a great work of art. Any movie that shows our humanity in its rawest and purest form, regardless of one’s sexual orientation, is a movie that is worth seeing… even in the Queen City. Welcome to the 21st century, Cincinnati.