In Derp Blog Into Darkness, I take a plunge into the deep with movies I’ve never seen or (in some cases) never even heard of, with the only common thread throughout being that they were purchased by my partner in the years after the break with her religious upbringing. This gives me a wide variation in movies to explore, ranging from mainstream comfort food to more daring, “rebellious” stuff.
Now here's that rare type of movie that I had definitely heard of, knew many of the main players involved, knew what kind of movie it was... but had absolutely no idea what it was actually about.
Being an Edward Zwick movie, I was expecting LEGENDS OF THE FALL to have some kind of liberal moral to the story, most likely with a comforting-to-90s-audiences White Savior theme.
But... what would the actual plot be about?
The title wasn't any help. What legends about the fall was the movie going to address? Were the characters themselves the legends, and would their legendary actions mostly be autumnal?
Who knows, and how lovely a feeling indeed!
The movie starts out with an old Cree named One-Stab (Gordon Tootoosis) reminiscing on the travails and woes of the Ludlow family as they settled on the Montana plains long decades before, together with hired hand Decker (Paul Desmond) and his Cree wife Pet (Tantoo Cardinal).
All this table setting is relayed in a montage narrated by old man One-Stab, giving some of the more dramatic events a dryly funny "oh and btw this happened" feel. Mama Isabel (Christina Pickles) leaves them because the outdoors life fuckin' sucks! Goodbye! She just totters off in a car as the dad (Anthony Hopkins) and his three sons look on. Welp... guess we're gonna have to cook our own meals now, lads...
This gives middle boy Tristan (Keegan MacIntosh, later Brad Pitt) a serious chip on his shoulder, to the point where he literally goes to POKE A SLEEPING BEAR
He manages to escape to the great misfortune of pretty much every other character in the film, and even succeeds in taking a bear claw trophy, possibly blessing him with delicious lunches for the rest of his life.
As the boys grow up, young femme Samuel (actual ET boy Henry Thomas) meets Susannah Fincannon (Julia Ormond) on a visit to his mom in the city. This immediately turns Tristan and Alfred (90s man Aidan Quinn) into cyclopses, as their boners at seeing a white woman not their mom poke their eyes out right away. But even in their one-eyed state they have fun times, playing cricket and teaching Decker and Pet's little girl Isabel Two (Sekwan Auger) about France-land classics.
It was at this point I thought I was getting a handle on the movie, as Susannah certainly wouldn't be able to keep it dry around wild woodsman adonis Tristan whose adult form is literally introduced driving horses, blonde hair borne aloft on the winds of the plains. Oh no, romantic drama!
Not entirely! Turns out poetry bumbler Samuel is also a true idealist, and wishes to go fight in World War One, and he and Alfred give Daddy Colonel William a good chewing out for not wishing to be involved in this conflict. Even Tristan ends up enlisting to fight the Kaiser, but mostly to protect his brothers who didn't get the bear-wrestling XP earlier, but mostly mostly to not be alone with horny Susannah whom he totally had some steamy hand-touching with.
Samuel does not have a good WWI, unfortunately! He gets stuck in some barbed wire and two Germans calmly deploy a gatling gun and get on their bellies so they could really take their time with this one, extremely trapped American six feet away from them on an even plain that they could have just shot with a sidearm and moved on.
Samuel's carefully executed death extremely upsets Tristan, and Brad briefly turns into an Aldo Raines avant-la-lettre who goes on a natsee-scalp-huntin' spree that mostly happens off-screen. This would have been disappointing but for the fact that we are one World War too early and they're not actually natsees so the visceral thrill of seeing them scalped just wouldn't have been there.
Alfred returns home and attempts to propose to Susannah in one of those "well I'm yer husband's single brother so why not" dealie-o's, but she declines him, which he just knows is all about that dreamy damned Tristan. He vows to make his name as a City Boy(tm) and leaves the movie.
When Tristan returns, it's fuccin time, and they fucc in different locations. But Tristan has dark thoughts that even buxom Susannah and a bear paw talisman cannot drive away. His brother so carefully shot... he wasn't there... TIME TOO RUNNOFT
Tristan engages in a montage of globetrotting adventures, while Susannah gets better and better at ranch life with Daddy Hopkins to the point I was almost expecting THEY were gonna get married. She waits for years, until she gets the very specific letter that she should marry someone else from Tristan at his lowest, unironically smoking opium.
Susannah who does need dick at some point (and Hopkins has a stroke) decided to marry respectableman Alfred after all.
But oh no! Tristan returns!
Don't worry, Tristan - we got some totally non-awkward consolation waifu for ya! That's right, Isabel Two is now a lusty young lady ("The L Word"'s Karina Lombard, very much taking me by surprise here) who is totes down to make good on her little girl promises of marrying Tristan. They don't just FUCC they also WEDD and PROCREATT, resulting in two little kids, the elder named Samuel after our favorite well-executed WWI casualty.
Tristan needs monies though, and since it is Prohibition now, he starts to do some bootlegging, to the annoyance of upright politicsman Alfred. But oh ho ho! Some of Alfred's moneymen are boozechaps themselves! The O'Bannion brothers (Robert Wisden and John Novak, playing basically Daredevil villains in the third act of this here romantic epic) aren't happy with Tristan musclin' in on their territory and start intimidating him... resulting in a roadside ambush that ends with Isabel Two dying of the world's first insta-kill shoulder shot.
Tristan and Decker organize some good vengeance for their shared womanproperty, and Politicswife Susannah decides to eat a gun because her Cucksband Alfred would never do such good vengeance for her.
As Tristan and Alfred mourn their wives, Alfred expresses his secret admiration for wildman sex god Tristan. "All my life I followed these rules... and yet I have nothing to show for it..."
Oh okay, was this the central relationship of the movie? The framing and dialogue sure would seem to suggest it here! But Alfred has basically been mostly absent for a good hour of the running time, and Tristan was really not thinking about him? Before this scene -- hell, before Susannah's out-of-nowhere suicide -- I would have surmised that Tristan/Susannah was the dramatic focus of the movie, with maybe Tristan/Poppa as the secondary one. Yer really catching me off-guard here, Zwicky!
When I voiced this disbelief to my partner, she rather hilariously went "Oh no, this is a MAN's movie!!!" which I found extremely hilarious. These deep dives are always at their most amusing when Ella revisits a thing from The Old Days and deems it Fucking Shit without expecting it to be. This was one of the best examples I'd come across so far!
As for me, I didn't hate watching it -- it hit a perfect balance of being a movie I had no knowledge of and also being extremely episodic so I was constantly on my toes as to what was going to happen next -- but I also wouldn't actually recommend it. They make opulent epics all the time, and this one isn't a particularly innovative or supremely competent one. I don't know if I'd ever seen Julia Ormond in anything before, but she was perfectly charming and engaging here.
Post-stroke gimmick acting Hopkins was Topkins -- really not that far from TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT type of shit once he got to that part of the movie.
Brad Pitt was the weirdest thing: I'd seen quite a few Brad Pitt movies before, but SE7EN the only one where he played a (relatively) normal guy. Ironically, I never saw any of his star making sex symbol performances, which made Tristan a weird character I was constantly expecting to bonk himself on the head by walking into a beam or launch into idiotic diatribes... but no, we had to take this tormented beautiful man 100% seriously at all times!
I dunno mang... can you?