Favorite Fictional Characters, #326: Alfred Ludlow
I have mixed feelings about Legends of the Fall. It's a visually and musically sumptuous film (Horner's score is a go-to for writing sessions), and the actors are firing on all cylinders. Hopkins' TR-esque Colonel Ludlow is charismatic and scene-swallowing. Elliot from ET is fresh-faced, naive cannon-fodder. And of course Brad Pitt is visceral and animalistic, raw brooding masculinity. My favorite Ludlow, though, is eldest brother Alfred. Cautious, responsible, mature, Alfred lives in the real world. He's not the rugged mountain-man Grizzly Adams-meets-Fabio heartthrob of his blonde brother, but then, who is? Alfred is the counterpoint to Pitt's unvarnished Tristan, a modern man in a modern world of nuance and compromise. This schism drives a wedge in the family, as much as Julia Ormond's faithless, wanton Susannah.
Poor Alfred. He has the ill luck to have a demigod as a brother. Of course Tristan is the Colonel's favorite son. Of course Susannah will cheat on you with your force-of-nature brother. (Pro tip - don't get involved in a lover's triangle with Brad Pitt. You ain't winning. Even Jennifer Aniston loses in these situations.) Alfred is too serious, too practical, too dutiful. He lacks the danger the world seeks in its heroes. He's a buttoned-down workaday rule-follower, and that guy never wins. At one point in the film he expresses this with some understandable frustration, telling Tristan, "I followed all of the rules, man's and God's. And you, you followed none of them. And they all loved you more. Samuel, Father, and my...even my own wife."
Poor Alfred. Aidan Quinn does his best, with his haunting otherworldly eyes and slouching resignation, but Alfred is out of luck from day one.
Why do I say I have mixed feelings? The film drags, it is way too long, it has plot holes. But it is beautiful, and sad, and ambitious. Like Alfred, it's a lot of good things, just not quite enough of any of them.