Picks and Pans Review: Legends of the Fall

updated 12/19/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/19/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Anthony Hopkins, Brad Pitt, Aidan Quinn, Julia Ormond, Henry Thomas

Big sky, big emotions. That's what you get in this sprawling, romantic period film, which follows the fortunes of three Montana brothers who all love the same woman. Depending on your mood and sensibility, it either sweeps you up in its rapturous emotional wake or—and it's a big or—you just sit there and snicker. I found myself alternately doing both, though fortunately more of the former than the latter.

Based on Jim Harrison's engrossing 1979 novella of the same title, and directed with a-man's-gotta-do-what-a-man's-gotta-do sensibility by Glory's Edward Zwick, Legends features Hopkins as a U.S. Cavalry colonel who, fed up with enforcing government policy of rounding up Native Americans and marching them off to reservations, retires to a ranch with his three sons in the early 1900s. Quinn plays the responsible eldest son, Pitt the gone-native middle one and Thomas the sensitive youngest. Their easy camaraderie is forever disrupted when Thomas returns home from Harvard with a fiancée (Ormond) who lights the fires of all three brothers.

As the most troubled of the trio, Pitt is front and center, with mixed results. Sometimes his portrayal of a man at war with himself is moving; at other times, he seems to be all attitude, like the models in Calvin Klein underwear ads. Quinn brings a thoughtful gravity to his part that perfectly balances Pitt's intensity. Hopkins is fine for the first two-thirds of the film but, after his character suffers a stroke, makes like Quasimodo in the movie's final third. Thomas, all grown up from his E.T. days, is sweetly appealing, and Ormond, though lovely, has a role that is essentially both underwritten and unplayable, and she seems as if she's nursing an ulcer in many scenes. (R)

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