Tuesday, September 3, 2013
(December 1970, U.S.)
By the first year of the 1970s, movies were forever changed and the traditional formats, practices and films of the big studios were virtually dead. The revolution of the late 1960s saw a new breed of film that meant more edge, more risk, more blood and more guts! Films like THE GRADUATE (1967), BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, EASY RIDER and THE WILD BUNCH (all 1969) were gearing up toward the younger, angrier and more rebellious film audiences spawned by the outrage of America's involvement in the Vietnam War and the general distaste and distrust of American government. On top of all that, Paramount Pictures was in deep financial shit. So, it's quite easy to ask how in the midst of such angry films and a major motion picture company on the brink of disaster did a pure and simple film like LOVE STORY save the day and become the highest grossing film of 1970?
Well, perhaps the answer is as simple as the simple consideration of simple simplicity? Did I just lose some you? Consider that when you live in a world filled with multiple forms of chaos and anarchy, it's the downright simple things that just might pull you out of it. In the year of 1970, when films like M.A.S.H., AIRPORT and even PATTON were expressing the grim and rather negative side of things, a melodrama like LOVE STORY came along and showed movie lovers that good old-fashioned love and romance had not died with the like of legends like Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Our lovers in this film are simple college kids played by the likes of Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw as Oliver Barrett IV and Jennifer Cavalleri who very quickly appear to meet, dislike each other, like each other, date regularly, make love, fall in love, get married and build a life together through struggle, poverty, conflicting social and financial backgrounds and even parental disapproval (on the rich preppie Oliver's side).
But wait...even the most tender of love stories is not without its dark side. Consider for a moment some of the most popular love stories you've ever seen on screen, like CASABLANCA (1942), AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER (1957), A STAR IS BORN (any version) and even TITANIC (1997). What do they all have in common? They all end with some form of difficulty or tragedy that doesn't allow the wonderful couple you've been watching on screen to truly make it in the end. In the case of LOVE STORY...well, Oliver Barrett's voice-over says it best when he opens the film with, "What can you say about a twenty-five year-old girl who died?" So already we know this film ends in tragedy. But like it or not, tragedy tends to constitute the best love stories, don't they? Would we, as film lovers, felt the same way if Bogart had managed to hold onto Bergman instead of letting her go at the airport? If DiCaprio and Winslet had actually survived the iceberg crash and gotten off the big ship together? No, my friends, it would seem that it isn't merely that "Love means never having to say you're sorry", but rather, "Love means not getting what you want in the end...mainly each other!"
Now let's take a brief moment to examine that small piece of dialogue that's become so famous from this films..."Love means never having to say you're sorry." Seriously?? Who exactly, in their right mind came up with the validity behind THAT one?? As a married man of nearly twelve years, I can tell you first hand that love has meant my having to say I'm sorry more times than I care to admit! And sometimes I even MEANT IT (just kidding, Beth)!
Here's one more interesting little anecdote that I have to make about this film and it feels very true, particularly when you study Ali MacGraw on her deathbed; in Roger Ebert's glossary of movie conventions and clichés, he defines "Ali MacGraw's Disease" as a "Movie illness in which the only symptom is that the sufferer grows more beautiful as death approaches." What can you say about that, Ryan?
Favorite line or dialogue:
Jennifer Cavalleri: "Screw Paris!"
Oliver Barrett: "What?"
Jennifer: "Screw Paris and music and all that stuff you thought you stole from me!"