The comparisons to James Dean were immediate. I love the three James Dean movies (East of Eden –also one of my favorite books; Rebel Without A Cause; and Giant). I’ve not seen all of Heath’s movies. It’s probably obvious that the one I’m going to write about and the one that has had a huge impact on me is “Brokeback Mountain”. This movie has such an impact that I pre-ordered the DVD and the movie poster (the real deal) when the movie was released. I saw the movie three times in the theatre—Something I NEVER do. (I bitch about the price of movie tickets), and each time I saw it was at full price, no matinees. It was the winter I broke my arm. I had been downstate at my parents for a few weeks, while they helped me out. I came back home when it was time for my regularly occurring appointments with my orthopaedic surgeon. I was still in a good deal of pain, and not able to drive. The movie was showing at an older theatre about a mile from my appt. So, I was able to walk. The first time was a Saturday night. I fully expected to like the movie. I expected it to affect me. I didn’t expect it to impact me and resonate with me to the degree that it did. It was Heath Ledge’s portrayal of Ennis Del Mar that hit me right between the eyes. I left the theatre that Saturday night, feeling like I’d had the wind knocked out of me. Have you ever had the experience where something reaches you so viscerally, at such an intense deep emotional level, that you are so numbed, you can’t even have an appropriate emotional response? Ennis Del Mar did that to me.
I went back the next day, Sunday (OK, I guess I did see one matinee). There was a line that Ennis says, that I couldn’t remember. I wanted to get that line, and I had to see the movie again. Again, smacked between the eyes. I knew what was coming so the intensity wasn’t so raw, and my heart wasn’t in my throat throughout the whole movie this time. Damn it! I couldn’t remember the quote again, after the second viewing.
But, I still had to see this again. I needed to see it with my best friend. We grew up together. I was ‘man of honor’ at her wedding. One of the reasons I moved to Chicago was to be closer to her geographically. I needed to see this with her, to discuss it and process it with her after viewing. I didn’t tell her any more details about it outside of the media flap already surrounding it. As we were leaving the theatre, I said, “What are your thoughts?”
She replied, “That was Bumblefuck*, Illinois!—without the mountains and beautiful scenery.” (*pseudonym for our hometown).
She saw it too. It wasn’t merely my projection. I very easily could have been (nearly was) Ennis Del Mar—rural farm town boy, with a secret, trying to fit it, trying to be something/someone he was never meant to be; shut himself off from people, afraid that they would ‘discover’ his truth. The “love that dare not speak its name”.
There were some eerie coincidences with me and the movie. At the beginning of the movie, the Randy Quaid character (boss) drives up in a Rambler-American. While not the exact model, my first real car was Rambler, that my uncle Orval sold to me for $50. Later in the movie, Ennis is driving an old light green, with white top early 60s Ford F150 (I think it was a 150, maybe 100). That was the truck I learned how to drive in. My Dad’s old beater truck, 3 on the tree, no power steering, taking my first drive on the country gravel roads. The little grocery store, the Laundromat, the small country church, as my best friend said, “that was Bumblefuck, Illinois!” Even down to his mannerisms and speech pattern, talking in that drawl, barely opening his mouth as he spoke. Heath nailed it. That was my Dad and my Uncles. The eerie coincidences unnerved me just a little bit. How does someone you don’t know, have never met, tell your story –get into the dark recesses of your soul and make seem even more real?
I took pen and paper the third time to get the line down that I thought was so profound (to me, not all of humanity). The line is when they are on one of their camping trips. Jack is frustrated that Ennis won’t commit to being together.
Ennis “If you cain’t fix it, you got to stand it.”
Jack “For how
Ennis “As long as we can ride it.”
As noted above, I was recovering from my broken arm/shoulder. It was another in a long line of major health shit that I’d gone through in 5 years. I was on a medical leave—no income, waiting to go back to a job that I loathed. It was hard to identify which of these hells was worse than the other. This exchange between Ennis and Jack became my mantra. I couldn’t fix it. My arm or my job. I had to ride it out. I typed it out on slips of paper, and put them everywhere that I would see it: in my wallet, in books, in my office(s) once I returned to work. It literally became my mantra. It helped get me through that winter, through that year, and finally out of that job.
Accounting has never been my forté. But this Ledger just doesn't reconcile. It doesn't add up. It certainly makes no sense. Thank you Heath. Give my regards to James Dean. RIP. © wtf/rle