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Film Review: Love Story
In 1970, Arthur Hiller released Love Story, based on the novel of the same name by Erich Segal, who also wrote the screenplay. Starring Ryan O’Neal, Ali MacGraw, John Marley, Ray Milland and Tommy Lee Jones in his film debut, the film grossed $136.4 million at the box office. Considered one of the most romantic films by the American Film Institute, it was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Not Previously Published, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor as well. It also won the Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture, Drama, Best Director, Best Actress in a Drama, Best Screenplay and Best Original Score.
Harvard University attendee Oliver Barrett IV falls in love with Radcliffe College student Jennifer Cavalleri. The two quickly fall in love despite him being from an upper class east coast family and her being from the working class. However, it’s soon found out that Jennifer is terminally ill.
Love Story may be well made, but the plot is contrived and contains rampant stupidity on the part of the main characters. Initially, the film had promise, portraying a romance between two people of different social classes; looking like Oliver would have to learn how to live without help from his parents and Jennifer understanding how to love some who is well off. Yet, as the film continues, the promise leaves and the viewer is left with two morons who should never have been together in the first place. Never thinking anything through, nor the actual implications of what marriage is going to do to them, Oliver and Jennifer never seem to have any emotional attachment to each other except for constant infatuation that doesn’t ever evolve into actual love. If real and true love ever factored into it, Oliver would have let Jennifer know that she’s terminal and she wouldn’t have suspected that he was cheating on her when he was trying to be extra-attentive to her. It also seems like their affection doesn’t go much further than their playful teasing and name calling. Could it be that Love Story is called that because that’s what the film (and book) so desperately wanted to be?
Also it looks like none of them any substantial growth as characters. The latter because she doesn’t have the opportunity and the former because he’s so pigheaded, proud and stupid. True, the film does have Oliver grow and reconnect with his father who disowned him because of marrying Jennifer. However, it comes about in the worst way possible, which could very well be the dumbest line ever spoken in film: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” That’s a notion that only vapid idiots who are infatuated with the other person say to dismiss their wrongdoings. That isn’t love. True love, real love, is all about looking out for the best of the other person and recognizing that when mistakes have been made, apologizing for them, growing and learning from them. The notion that love means never having to apologize is blind to the fact that people aren’t perfect and will do stupid things when it comes to their significant other. To believe that one never has to apologize if they’re in love carries the risk of being laden with bitterness about being wronged and guilt for being the wrongdoer. True loves comes with it an expectation that forgiveness and compromise is going to be central to make the relationship work. And while there was a lot of compromise in the film, it’s clear that both characters had bitterness about their lives. It really came out in Oliver’s anger in the scene before Jennifer first says that line and she’s so infatuated that she doesn’t understand that Oliver was in the right for apologizing for what he did. Oliver then takes the line and says it to his father when he apologizes for Jennifer’s death. Putting the line there so misunderstands the sympathy of Oliver’s father and does serious harm to the intent of the scene where the two are reconnecting. If that’s the one thing he took away from his marriage and relationship with Jennifer, then Oliver didn’t learn anything substantial throughout the entire film.
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