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