The Pitt and the Pendulous

Pitt is actually quite competent as the charismatic Tristan, even if the part is basically a variation on the character he played in -- River Runs Through It. I wouldn't want to be the actress who costars opposite him, though; with those bee-stung lips, those chiseled cheekbones, and that leonine golden mane, he's prettier than most of his female counterparts. Aidan Quinn, playing Alfred, the dandified city boy to Pitt's romantic primitive, is a pleasant surprise in a thankless role. A funny phenomenon occurs, however, when Hopkins, Pitt, and Quinn appear on-screen at once. They all have striking blue eyes. You can't resist comparing one set of peepers against another. If only Paul Newman were there to serve as the standard against which the others could be measured.

Screenwriters Susan Shilliday (an alumna of TV's thirtysomething) and Bill Wittliff (The Cowboy Way) have conspired with director Edward Zwick (co-creator of thirtysomething and director of another well-acted but ultimately unsatisfying epic, Glory) to turn Harrison's novella into something that resembles a pilot for a bad TV series A My Three Sons in a Little House on the Prairie. The events that occur in the celluloid Legends of the Fall feel random, and we are often left to fill in the blanks of various characters' motivations. Harrison's novel, by contrast, was a story of love and loss writ large; his prose resonated with the inevitability of fate where this screen adaption rings shrill and arbitrary. And dull.

The middle third moves so slowly you actually welcome the resumption of One Stab's solemn narration. "It was those who loved [Tristan] most who died young," the wise man intones. After sitting through Legends of the Fall, you'll wish you were one of them.

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