K and I watched Love Story last night (research purposes–that’s a tale for another time). Given that it’s such a simple story we both hoped it would hold up, despite being released 41 years ago.
The first non-modern thing I noticed, as we open on the snowy campus of Harvard, is how…dirty it all looked. A snowy field in any 21st C film would have been groomed to perfection, whiter than white. This looked realistic: cold and unpleasant as opposed to magical. (Later, the hospital corridors looked similarly dingy.) Then–and this is hard to miss–Ali McGraw can’t act. Her dialogue is wooden–when it’s not being robotic; I wondered, for a few minutes, if she was trying to play someone on the autism spectrum. When she’s not talking, her physical acting, her body language, is believable. But sadly she talks a lot. What were the producers thinking? Different times. Speaking of which, on the street, the men wear hats. This is a film made in my lifetime and the men wear hats. It made me realise just how long I’ve been on the planet. Exceedingly strange.
Ray Milland adds a touch of gravitas but his presence is essentially pointless. We could have lost all those Daddy-issues (I’m so very tired of Hollywood’s daddy issues), lost all that fuss about money, and the plot would be untouched. I did like the character of Jennifer’s dad, Phil, though. I’d forgotten how well played that was.
I think the lovers-gambolling-in-the-snow might have been the first of those now de rigueur acting-childish-outdoors-so-we-know-they’re-in-love montages. It was very slow (97 mins which I think I might have cut to something like 85). And the soundtrack is thin and tinny, except when it swells for those reach-for-the-hanky moments.
Which brings me to my point. Love Story is a classic weepie. That’s its purpose. When the audience doesn’t weep, the film fails. Love Story, then, has a very narrow audience. When I first saw this film I was 12 or 13, sitting in the lounge with Mum and two sisters, eating chocolates. They started to weep about twenty minutes from the end. I sat there squirming, thinking, Oh, just die! Then we can switch the channel to Star Trek! I thought my family were weird and alien. I thought the film ridiculous. I knew a thing or two about death at this point, and, sigh, a lot about hospitals, but I knew nothing, zero, of romantic lurve. It may as well have been a film about Martians speaking Urdu for all the sense it made to me.
I saw it again when I was 16, after I’d fallen head over heels with my first lover, Una. I wept helplessly, hopelessly. I gushed like a drain. It all felt so relevant. So true. So tragic.
Now, frankly, I’m back to the, Oh, just die already, then we can watch the DVD of Babylon 5! Which, yep, I haven’t seen for ages and am looking forward to very much. I wonder how it will hold up…