Tuesday, May 28, 2013

When Legends Fail

Flipping through channels last night I fell on Legends of the Fall, a very odd movie to say the least.  It was based on Jim Harrison's novella from a few years before.  It wasn't one of Harrison's best efforts as he seemed to be setting All My Sons during WWI with the patriarch of the family (Anthony Hopikins) oddly resembling Teddy Roosevelt.  A woman (Julia Ormond) gets caught between the three sons (Adrian Quinn, Brad Pitt and Henry Thomas).  You really feel sorry for her in the end.  But, probably the most incongruent part of the film is that it was told from the point of view of one of the old Indian workers on Ludlow's ranch, projecting an iconic family portrait

Many of the scenes looked like something out of a Ralph Lauren commercials, extolling a mythic Americana that never existed.  Brad Pitt even did his best to reprise Jeremiah Johnson as he goes on a "vision quest" to try to restore his balance.  The film followed pretty closely on the heels of A River Runs Through It, which made Pitt a Hollywood sensation, oft compared to a young Robert Redford. Whereas the previous movie held together pretty well, this one started to crumble apart almost from the start.

I wasn't sure what Harrison was after in the book either.  It was part of trio of novellas contained under one title, and I guess some Hollywood producer felt it could be shaped into a movie pretty easily. They had already made an abysmal version of his novel, Wolf, literally making the lead character into a werewolf, whereas the story was a about a young man searching who identified himself with the wolves of the upper peninsula of Michigan, retracing home ground.  At least this time they stuck more closely to the story.  There was also a 1990 movie, Revenge, based on one of the novellas in this collection but I never saw it.  Pretty much mano-a-mano stuff.

Sundog was my personal favorite of Harrison, which fortunately hasn't yet been made into a movie that I know of.

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