By Doug Cummings
Arizona Daily Wildcat
"Legends of the Fall" is the worst kind of movie. It stuffs itself with pretty imagery, flowery music, and handsome stars in order to fool the audience into thinking they're seeing a well-made movie. But it exhibits no regard for its story or its characters, they're merely romantic icons meant to swoon and sob, and the joke is on anyone foolish enough to sit through the film's two and a half hour running time.
The story concerns itself with the tensions between an aging father (Anthony Hopkins) and his idealistic sons, Samuel (Henry Thomas), Alfred (Aidan Quinn) and Tristan (Brad Pitt) who decide to join the Great War in 1915.
Samuel is engaged to Susannah (Julia Ormond) and immediately upon presenting her to the family, the other brothers fall in love with her as well. Thus begins the drama: will she love the idealistic Samuel, the respectable Alfred, or the wild Tristan? She opts for the wild one because, after all, he's the biggest star.
The movie "progresses" from one convoluted and turgid romantic moment to another looking like a Marlboro ad. But it's not a movie with any sense of unity. It's solely comprised of overblown "moments" and facile emotions. In one scene, Susannah vows to her lover, "I'll wait for you forever . as long as it takes," and in the next scene, she watches him ride off into the sunset and asks the father, "Do you think he'll ever come back?"
If Susannah were a real person, she no doubt would be a study in psychological confusion and emotional masochism. She undergoes so much unnecessary romantic torment throughout the movie, one wants to yell, "Get over it! Everybody in this movie is a jerk!" The film tries to make her out to be an emblem of unrequited love, but because her lover is so selfish and unappealing, she only seems bizarre.
The cinematography, by John Toll ("Wind"), is as postcard-pretty as possible, but it's only that. One famous cinematographer, Conrad Hall ("Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"), once said that making a pretty image is the easiest thing to do. The hard thing, he contended, is to make an image carry symbolic and emotional resonance. "Legends" is comprised of shallow prettiness and an easy beauty that is both superficial and derivative.
The director, Edward Zwick ("Glory"), doesn't provide any sense of how the characters live. In movies like this, the way people work the land and make a living is as important to them as anything else. Except for a couple scenes involving money trade, the audience never sees a character in the movie work at all. How do they live? Where do all these extravagant meals come from? How do they spend their days apart from making love and riding horses?
"Legends of the Fall" is a ridiculous movie, full of wafer-thin sentimentality and visual cliche. It wouldn't be so bad if it didn't take itself so seriously, presenting each episodic scene like the emotional climax of any other movie. The only loss of love a viewer will experience after seeing this film will be the viewer's love of movies.
"Legends of the Fall" is showing at Century Park 16, 620-0750.
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