Legends of the Fall - Native American Movie Listing
Legends of the Fall is an epic family-based story set in a gorgeous landscape - the untamed lands of Montana in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Like most of these sweeping stories, it is about beautiful people and torrential passion. You don't watch these for a lot of sensical plotline and in depth dialogue. You watch for the soap-opera highs, lows and beautiful faces.
Brad Pitt and his long hair are the key here. He is the oldest son - the most beloved son - out of three. He is pretty much raised by an "Indian Chief" who is a good friend of father Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins had been a soldier in the Indian Wars, had been sickened by what happened, and retreated to Montana to raise his family. Rounding out the family is a servant couple - a native american woman, her American husband, and their half-breed daughter.
There are interesting commentaries on the Indian situation here. A pub owner refuses to serve to the chief because of his race. The servants won't send their daughter to the local school because they're worried she'd be picked on. On the other hand, the Chief is portrayed as an "all wise" character - one who trains Pitt to kill everything in sight and to scalp people. It made me a bit uncomfortable.
But again, this isn't a movie about gripping accuracy. It's about epicness. There are thundering, rich musical interludes, and truly stunning scenery. The actors NEVER seem to age throughout the entire story. They are always young and beautiful.
Women aren't treated very well by this film. There's the mom who takes off on her family without any regret. There's the "half breed" who is only 20 when Pitt takes her for his wife, in a move bordering on incest given how they grew up together. That's how these stories go, of course. You've got the abandoning cold one, the innocent sweet killed-too-soon one - and then of course the third "stereotype" - the passionate woman that everybody wants.
That would be Julia Ormand. Julia falls for the youngest son first - played by Henry Thomas. When she shows up in Montana with him, the other 2 sons fall for her as well. She is lured by Pitt's manliness but dutifully restrains herself. In no time at all Thomas is running off to join in WWI, and his 2 brothers go along to protect him. Julie pleads with Pitt to protect her fiance. Unfortunately, Thomas dies rather quickly, and Pitt feels like it is his fault.
So now you begin the real epicosity of the story. Aidan Quinn - the middle son - reveals his love for widow Julia. She rebuffs him, pining for Pitt. Pitt makes love to Julia and Quinn is jealous. Quinn takes off, Pitt hangs out for a while - long enough for Julia to become completely in love with him - then takes off for years and years. Julia pines and cries. Finally Julia gives in to Quinn rather than be alone. Then of course this is Pitt's cue to return and to take up with the now-barely-20 almost-a-sister. In a short period of time the new wife is killed because of Pitt's rum-running, Julia commits suicide rather than be away from him, and the remaining family (all men except the lone Indian woman) settles down again.
I really love the beautiful landscapes, the beautiful actors - but I guess I just like "realism" too much to have fully appreciated the epic-cicity of this. Julia cries and cries and cries. She starts out as an intelligent, athletic woman who can handle horses - but ends up petulant and weak. No other female in the cast even has a chance. Quinn is great as the middle son who does his extreme best and is never respected for it, or given love. Thomas doesn't have much to work with in being the "sweet innocent protected idealistic youngest son" who is killed off in short order.
Then there's Pitt. His main job is to look handsome and manly. He breaks wild horses. He wrangles the herd. He watches out for his younger brother. He fights with a bear. The women all adore him. He breaks down and sobs at his brother's death. This melts the heart of all female watchers :). A cowboy who can handle the rough mustangs! The soldier who can shoot straight! The man who can cry when he's sad! Plus the looks! He's set out to be a God.
The ironic part is that Pitt mistreats the women he comes across - and yet because of the above qualities it's considered "OK" - just as when soap opera guys mistreat their women it's excused because "well men will be men". He hates his mom for leaving them even while his brothers accept it. He is fond of Julia - but once he has her firmly in love with him, he abandons her because he wants to be wild and free. He refuses to write to her, and when he finally does he is callous. When he comes back, he quickly climbs into the arms of the servant girl who has been pretty much a sister to him his whole life - something to me akin to a teacher agreeing to a student's embraces. He deliberately engages in risky gun-running which endangers his family, and she dies as a result. His treatment of Julia drives her to suicide. And yet somehow he emerges as the hero of the story.
So while I really appreciated where this story was going, and that it was meant to be full of epicness, I didn't like much at all how it treated women - or native Americans. Both were used as extreme stereotypes. The gorgeous landscapes and gorgeous actors could have created an amazingly meaningful story - but what we got didn't quite measure up to that potential.
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