SNARK WEEK: Why Legends of the Fall Must DIAF

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This Snark Week, I’m sharing with you my least favorite movie ever, Legends of the Fall (1994). Sure, A Knight’s Tale made me throw things at the TV because it was so dumb, and I gritted my teeth through Braveheart‘s endless inaccuracies. But the sheer weight of the worn-out cliches and Brad Pitt’s hair pissed me off so bad that my husband had to physically restrain me from leaving the theater (yeah, we paid money to see this tripe in public).

In fact, the only redeeming thing about Legends of the Fall is the fairly decent historical costumes (by pre-Titanic Deborah Lynn Scott, apparently warming up for future 1910s epics-with-crap-storylines), so you might think it’s unfair to pick on the movie just because of the crappy plot and wooden acting. But then you’re not remembering that there is no fairness in Snark Week.

So strap yourselves in, and behold the boringness, the overpowering pointlessness, and the mind-blowing idiocy that is Legends of the Fall, point by point!

 

1. Random English people keep going to Montana.

Anthony Hopkins is the patriarch of this dumb-ass family, and he’s supposed to be an immigrant from Cornwall who joined the U.S. calvary and became a colonel while fighting Indians. But he sided against the government and with the Native Americans (uh huh, because that would totally happen in the late 19th century / early 20th, folks were super PC back then *eyeroll*). When his sons enlist in World War I, they reference British cousins (who they’ve never met) and join up with the Canadian army to help the Brits. Huh?

Legends of the Fall

Then there’s Julia Ormond as an Englishwoman who the youngest son meets when he’s attending Harvard, and he takes her out to meet his family, and she just stays in Montana. She picks up horse-wrangling ‘n sharp-shootin’ ‘n all this frontier life like she was born to it, even though the colonel’s wife couldn’t hack it and moved to Boston. That wife is the only person in this movie who makes any sense — I’d GTFO too.

Legends of the Fall

 

2. The movie spans 40+ years, but almost no one ages.

It starts with a flashback to the Indian wars where Anthony Hopkins quits the military and settles down in Montana (actually filmed in Canada, btw) with his reluctant-to-be-there wife and his Native American BFF dude. That’d have to be in the 1880s or 1890s at the latest. Then the three brothers are all grown up, and it’s World War I (so 1914). Shit goes down, then it’s Prohibition (1920), and the movie ends in 1963. In all this time, we get only a brief shot of the brothers as teens, and for the last third of the film, Anthony Hopkins has white hair (plus a stroke).

Legends of the Fall

Julia Ormond’s fairly abrupt change from 1910s shirtwaist blouses to 1920s beaded gowns is the only other indication that time has passed — aside from the endless voiceovers that tell us what year it is. Which leads to…

 

3. This flick trots out every cliche in the book!

Originality is too hard! By 1994, Hollywood was out of ideas, so they threw every possible old idea into Legends of the Fall in the attempt to make Brad Pitt a mega-star. The first 10 minutes of the movie have a pretentious-as-hell voiceover by the Cree spirit guide (the colonel’s old pal) who will be Pitt’s inner voice for way-too-fucking long during this movie. Because clearly he can’t act or emote and show us what the character is feeling; let’s just slap a voiceover on it and call it good.

Legends of the Fall

Speaking of the spirit guide, hello noble savage cliche run amok. He drops in such bon mots as “Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness and they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy, or they become legends.” I vote for crazy, fwiw. Or, “I think it was the bear, growling inside him. Making him do bad things. Nothing that Tristan did was truly his own fault. It was the bear.” Because we also get the man-connected-to-animal spirit cliche for good measure. Or, “It was those who loved him most who died young. He was a rock they broke themselves against however much he tried to protect them.” I wanted to smash a rock against my head re-watching this movie.

Legends of the Fall

The plot is about as hackneyed as they come. The youngest brother brings his fiancee to meet the fam, she falls in instant LURVE with bad-boy Tristan (Pitt), but the three dudes go off to WWI before anything comes of it. As anyone with three brain cells could predict a mile away, the naive younger brother dies in the war. OBVIOUSLY, bad-boy and former fianceé do the nasty when he returns, but oldest brother is jealous.  Bad-boy goes off to find himself or some shit in the most nonsensical part of the film (shoot me in the face, please). Older brother pines, dad gets pissed off randomly so those two can be estranged and have the again so-predictable reunion at the very end of the movie. In the middle, there’s a lot more angsty crap, landscape shots, swelling soundtrack, a completely annoying side plot where Pitt’s character has a whole family that solely exist to get hurt, and there’s a couple of super-cliche shoot-’em-ups where the good guys are faster with guns than the bad guys. The mess is 133 minutes that feels like 1,333,333 hours.

Legends of the Fall

4. Wild-boy Tristan is magnetically attractive to EVERYONE.

Fine, OK, Brad Pitt was an up-and-commer in 1994. I remember, I was there. This was one of his first big starring roles. But really, the movie overdoes it (as with everything else). The character is daddy’s favorite, all the hired hands at the farm look up to him, women fall for him immediately, he can tame wild horses with a flick of his wrist, he can navigate a sailboat across the oceans, he fucking walks on water!  His older brother Alfred says it 1.57 hours in: “I followed all the rules — man’s, God’s — and you followed none of them, and they all loved you more — Samuel, father, even my own wife.” Sheesh.

Legends of the Fall

5. Brad Pitt’s hair (and beard) is so very 1990s.

Now, I love a guy with long hair, do not get me wrong. I find it incredibly sexy. And I kinda like this look on Brad Pitt. But not in this movie because it’s YET ANOTHER cliche in a movie jam-packed with ’em and it’s SO VERY ’90s. It’s not historically accurate for any era of this movie (especially not when he’s supposed to be a WWI Canadian soldier, I mean, really). The long hair just screams “we want you to think this character is a rebel” and “did you see this guy on the cover of People magazine lately?” It’s like how Bette Davis always had her trademark 1930s makeup in every movie she made, including historical costume flicks, just so audiences would know it was still Bette Davis. And then there’s the beard. A decade before hipsters, there’s Brad getting beardy to show he’s down with the people. Ugh.

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There may be worse historical costume movies, but this is my least favorite. What’s yours?

 

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. When she’s not dressing up in costumes, she can be found traveling the world with her sweetie and, occasionally, Kendra and Sarah. Her costuming and travel adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also maintains a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

22 Responses

  1. Stephani

    Thank you for enumerating every single reason this movie blows chunks all over the place. I hated it then, I hate it now, and Brad Pitt should never have been a Thing. Especially in anything remotely historical. Excuse me while I unswallow *hurk*

    Reply
  2. Kendra

    OH GOD THIS MOVIE!!! Julia Ormond is great, and her costumes are lovely (lots of black & white, which I love), but that is one drop in the TEDIOUSNESS THAT IS BRAD PITT, GROWING A BEARD, FINDING HIMSELF, AND WRESTLING WITH BEARS. GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      I left off the #6 reason why this movie bugs the shit out of me: Brad Pitt’s character is named “Tristan” so I have to hear ME referred to all during this lame-ass flick. Also, I’m pretty sure this is why there are so many little boys named Tristan right now, so whenever I’m in the mall or Target, I hear some mom my age yell “Tristan!” & I turn around & want to pop a bitch.

      Reply
      • Kendra

        That’s better than my high school experience, at which one of the science teachers had a dog named Tundra. People would yell “Tundra!” and I would turn around!

        Reply
  3. Adam Lid

    For me, this one is close to the top for sheer irritation. First is that Brad Pitt’s hair- yeah, the late 19th Century was just crawling with long-haired hippies. NOT. And especially when he and his brothers join the Canadian Army- sorry guys, lose the hair. Ever hear of lice? Armies of the period were sticklers for hygiene- lice = disease = less soldiers available to fight.

    Yes, prior to America’s entry into WWI, many Americans did go north to Canada to enlist- no issue there. As far as Hopkin’s character resigning in protest over treatment of Native Americans- would not have happened. That’s modern the modern PC mentality. This is not to say that officers were oblivious- many were quite critical of the Government’s policies- policies often created by misguided or corrupt politicians but in the end, nobody was going to throw their career away over it.

    I actually read the story that this movie was adapted from and it was no better. Cliches piled on cliches and the usual wildman vs civilization thing. Yawn.

    Reply
  4. Kathy Gustafson

    Yes! All these beautiful people and I prayed for them to die quickly so I could leave the theater. I recommend A River Runs through It as a palate cleanser.

    Reply
  5. Charity

    Brad Pitt is purdy. (He’s purdier and more emo in Interview With the Vampire, though.)

    Other than that, this movie sucked.

    Reply
  6. Kaye Dacus

    The only thing I liked about this movie (the one and only time I ever saw it—also in the cinema when it came out) is that it introduced me to Aidan Quinn!

    Reply
  7. Shirley

    Ugh I am so happy to know other people hated this movie! My brother and dad loved it and were so pissed at me when we watched it together and all I did was complain.

    I salute you for finding the courage to rewatch. I don’t think I could.

    Reply
  8. Tracey Walker

    I’m afraid that I find Brad Pitt si beautiful in this movie that it shuts off every other part of my brain. However, as far as Aidan Quinn goes, I fell in love with him in Desperately Seeking Susan.

    Reply
  9. Minerva Casterly

    Thank you for saying everything that was wrong with this crap-ass movie! I watched this when it was on TV and was like what?! I did not like any of the characters and the older brother was so whiny but he was so verbally abused by his douche dad who preferred his good for nothing brother (who was only good at looking good -Fabio-looking :p) that I nodded my head when he said that line about how he played by the rules and everybody screwed him over.

    Reply
  10. Sonya Heaney

    Heh. The artistic director of the company I danced with hates this movie as much as you. During rehearsals in the late Nineties she used to use it as an example of bad acting.
    “Don’t act it like those miserable people in Legends of the Fall!” :)

    Reply
  11. jandjatkinson

    Thank you! I loathe that movie, and regret spending the money to see it in the theater. It’s right up there with another Brad Pitt movie, 12 Monkeys, for things in my life I’ve labeled “Welp, that’s three hours I’ll never get back…”

    Reply
  12. Sexiest Dumb Brain '78

    Was forced to watch this with my in-laws last night and searched the web for some like-minded filmic souls. The Native American/indigenous experiences as an “add on”; the complete shallowness of the characterisation ; horse riding designer clothing wearing stud muffin; the endless loop of teary-eyed orchestral bulshit; it all lays testament to the state of affairs we currently reside. Thank u 1990’s there r now millennials being nostalgic about this shite…..why do brains feel comforted by sth that literally seems to make one dumber. It was weird to listen to family say how great it was,,,”Mills n Boon trash novel” was my diplomatic summary. Was 16 and a student of film when it came out now almost 40 being told by children about to procreate that we should waste our spare time on a Saturday night in such a way. Ironically this film is a clear example of why there would b zero chance of me running off with my sister-in-law should certain people in the household suddenly volunteer for war – this monstrosity of a movie is the war!

    Reply
  13. Deb

    I didn’t see this movie until several years after it came out. At that time I was blown away by the cinematography, especially how gorgeous the west was portrayed. Even though Brad Pitt too was gorgeous, I noticed even then he couldn’t act his way out of a wet paper bag.
    Fast forward to mid-2000s. Watched it again, and realized that Tristan was a complete POS, who had been spoiled since birth, making him practically a sociopath. Also noticed the costumes were wrong, most of the hairstyles were wrong, the weaponry was wrong, and on and on AND ON.
    One more jump to around 2014. Watched for what will be the last time. Tristan was a complete loser who screwed up everybody who ever cared about him. Even “Indian” voiceover absolved him of ANY responsibility, by saying it was “the bear that made him do it”. Jeez … I thought the whole “the devil made me do it” was over and done with in the early 70s, and it was already a cliche by then!
    I do have a grandson named Tristan, but I think he was named after an equally crappy James Franco movie, Tristan and Isolde. At least that’s a better love story, even if it’s a horrible movie.

    Reply

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