Reviewed by Tom Panarese
Rating: 10 Beans
here are some movies, in the great canon of cinema, that leave a lasting impression. Others leave none at all. And then there are those films that have an immediate impact on their audiences; sometimes even on the cultural landscape. However, as time goes on and the memory of these films fades from public consciousness, their place in the canon diminishes and they wind up being relegated to grainy, faded late-night showings on local network affiliates and never-rented VHS copies with faded boxes that sit on the shelf of a local Blockbuster collecting dust.
Such is "Love Story."
To say that the 1970 movie starring Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw as star-crossed lovers Oliver Barrett and Jenny Cavalleri is the "Titanic" of its day is by no means an exaggeration. The movie grossed more than $100 million (a lot back in 1970) and is often credited for the popularity of the name Jennifer. It has a formulaic plot -- boy meets girl, boy hates girl, boy falls for girl, boy's family hates girl and cuts boy off, boy and girl get married, boy works odd jobs while paying his way through law school, boy and girl finally make it and live comfortable life, girl gets sick, girl dies, boy cries and reconciles with family; two attractive young actors in the lead roles; and a haunting theme song that never seems to go away no matter how much you try to block it out of your mind. The thing is, once you've watched the movie and handed out tissues, then taken a chance to really absorb what you just saw, "Love Story" really isn't much to write home about. In fact, it's hard to find someone who is not a 12-year-old girl that finds the love story contained herein worth a single Kleenex.
The story actually begins where it ends -- Oliver is sitting in on a set of bleachers somewhere and voices over that he's lost the love of his life. We then flash back to his days as a Harvard undergrad, when being "Oliver Barrett IV" still meant that he was the blue-blooded son from a wealthy family, headed for law school and a star on the hockey team. Jenny, on the other hand, is a spunky brunette with a prediliction for turtlenecks and calling him "preppie," and comes from a working-class Italian family. The contrasts between their backgrounds are quickly drawn, as Oliver's family is obviously cold, WASP-y, and distant; and Jenny's family is warm and welcoming. Every single person in the film is a play on some sort of stereotype (although we get a sweet Tommy Lee Jones cameo, as he plays one of Oliver's roommates) and when the couple decides to say "screw all" to the Barretts' disapproving of their desire to wed, we're supposed to be rooting for those two crazy kids to make it.
Emphasis on "supposed to," by the way, because the minute you meet Jenny Cavalleri, you're glad that she's dead by the movie's end.
Yeah, I know that sounds harsh, especially considering that McGraw plays the part with the aplomb you'd expect from a women's lib-era Radcliffe co-ed, but there's a line where spunk is endearing and downright obnoxious. Unfortunately, I think that Jenny crossed that line in junior high school, and you kind of feel sorry for Oliver. I mean, he gave up all of that for ... her? Anyway, we learn, as the couple looks to start conceiving (and Jenny starts to resemble Katharine Ross in "The Stepford Wives." Which, well ... that would have been awesome), that Jenny is sick. With what, we don't know, and whatever she ails from doesn't take away her radiant beauty. In fact, she doesn't look sick at all when she's on her deathbed, a scene that's meant to be gut-wrenching but comes off as trite. It also serves as the catalyst for Oliver finally reconciling with his father, whom had disowned him years before and despite the best efforts of Jenny and her father, didn't want anything to do with him. Unfortunately, even that phyrric victory for the human spirit is eye-roll and groan inducing.
Hopelessly sappy, "Love Story" has only one redeeming quality -- it's straightforward and not as manipulative as, say, a Frank Capra movie. But it still is too saccharine, unfulfilling, and looks horribly dated. In fact, the only way to watch his would be in the MST3K tradition of jokes and wisecracks. And maybe with a fifth of bourbon.
Because I hate to break it to you, but love? Means never having to make anyone sit through this movie.
"Bad Movie Night" is a presentation of
Hit-n-Run Productions, © 1997-2006,
a subsidiary of Syphon Interactive, LLC.
Site created and managed by Ken and Scoot