by Jean Sramek   February 6, 2006

Jean Sramek comes to terms with an addiction that cannot speak its name. Well, actually it can. She'll tell you.
Jean Sramek
Jean Sramek
Jean Sramek

Is it possible to have a crush on a movie? If so, I have a crush on Brokeback Mountain. I couldnít wait to see it, and now Iíve seen it. How many times? Letís just say, more than once. Letís just say, itís none of your business how many times, but more than three. Letís just say, Iím at the point where I have started to lie about how many times Iíve seen it. I have a flexible schedule and I love going to movies alone, so as far as Iím concerned I can be a high-functioning, William S. Burroughs-style addict as long as itís playing in Theater #5 down at Duluth 10 and I have $5.50 in my pocket. Whatís worse (and weirder), I have also re-read the E. Annie Proulx short story upon which it is based, at least as many times as I have seen the film.

For the record, I am not the type of person who goes to see movies more than twice. I have my favorites, but most of them are on VHS or DVD. Once in a while a film comes along that is extra-wonderful, at least to me. I see it more than once, eventually buying it for my collection, curling up with it whenever Iím in the mood. Some I see so often that I have memorized them. My taste in films is all over the place; my list of cherished security-blanket films includes The Princess Bride, Raising Arizona, Fearless, L.A. Story, Itís a Wonderful Life, and The Blues Brothers.

But seeing a movie several times on the big screen, in first run? Those people are neurotic. Those people need hobbies (hobbies other than membership in the Society for Creative Anachronism). Those people dress up like characters from Lord of the Rings andóworseólook like Peter Jackson in real life. So far, the clothes Iíve worn to see Brokeback are the same clothes I always wear this time of year, what half the audience is wearingófleece jacket, snow clogs, turtleneck sweater and jeans. I havenít gone as far as dressing up in cowboy boots and a bolo tie for my furtive matinees, although I do have this cool tote bag with a picture of a rodeo cowboy on it that a friend bought for me in Montana, and I have lately started to favor the cowboy tote over my much more utilitarian and Minnesota-nice Duluth Pack tote.

Even if I were to start dressing in Western wear and saying things like ďI reckon,Ē it wouldnít worry me as much as what I have started doing, which is to think about Brokeback Mountain all the time. I replay the scenes in my head while I am working or cooking or skiing. I hear the guitar twangs from the score as background music to my real-life conversations. I have started to think about the characters in the movie as though they are human people. Iím nervous, antsy even, in the hours before I hand over the money to the blasť teenagers at the ticket counter. I feel slightly depressed when I canít see the movie, a feeling that lifts temporarily as soon as the opening titles play in the darkened theater and I know I can spend the next 2 hours, 14 minutes with Jack and Ennis and their sad, sad lives. I feel hopeful afterwards, but this turns into melancholy again while I am waiting for my next fix.

ďFix.Ē Yeah, I said it. Fix. And now here comes the parade of chemical dependency metaphors. Do you see Brokeback Mountain alone? Has it started to affect your work and relationships? Do you lie about how much you see Brokeback Mountain? Do you want to see Brokeback Mountain again the next morning? Blah blah blah. So Iím addicted. Fine. Whatever. Iíve read through the 12 steps and itís all religious God crap, so your interventions and your codependency manuals wonít work on atheist me. The only step Iím willing to do is Admit That I Am Powerless Over Brokeback Mountain. I canít Give Myself Over To A Higher Power because, as far as Iím concerned, Brokeback Mountain *is* the higher power. Itís the perfect film and I am utterly enchanted with it. While participating in an online discussion about the film, angry with people who were dissing the ďgay cowboy movieĒ without having seen it, I sliced through the usual patient analysis about universal themes and cinematic techniques and the American male archetype and posted BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN IS THE GREATEST FILM EVER MADE. IF YOU DISAGREE WITH ME, YOU ARE STUPID AND SHOULD BE KILLED, forbidden caps and all.

However, I am already actively doing the fourth of the twelve steps, which is to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself. I have to, because the greatest film ever made is ruining my lifeónot because seeing it has turned into a time-consuming hobby, but because I am unable to figure out why I like it so much. As I said, Iím not the multiple-showings type. But I canít get enough Brokeback. Iím a big fan of Ang Lee, of screenwriter Larry McMurtry, and especially of E. Annie Proulx. What they have done together, this skillful adaptation from fiction to film, is almost too much to bear. Other people cry in the theatre because Jack and Ennisí love could not speak its name; I cry because Iím never going to write or produce anything even 1/25th as good as Proulx or McMurtry or Lee, and whatís the point of even trying and why donít I just take poison and kill myself as soon as the credits roll.

But thereís something else going on with me and this movie, and I donít know what it is. In an interview, Proulx said that Jack and Ennis became so real to her, such vivid characters, that she couldnít stop thinking about them after she had finished the short story. It took her a long time to shake them out of her mind so she could get on with her work and write other things. Normally I would long for that, but now I fear it, since Iím already kinda sorta experiencing it and I donít know why. The only thing I know for sure is that the next showing is at 3:35.