Apr 18, 2014

[Movies] The Way We Were (1973)

My family was always pretty big on movies and over the years we have maintained sizable home video collections on VHS, VCD and DVDs predominantly. This is not to say that we didn't dabble in Betamax and Laserdiscs - believe me we've been around the block a number of times, so to speak. And thus my childhood is rich with different memories of various movies that we watched together as a family or just happened to be playing in the background while I was playing with my Transformers or something.

The Way We Were is one of those timeless movies that always ranks rather highly on various lists of movies that you need to see at least once in your life. It's one of the more complex romance stories that may seem simple in terms of core concept but end up being pretty complicated when fully realized. And as far as movies go, this was definitely quite the entertaining piece.

And we'll never get away from the fact that it is essentially a major blockbuster in terms of the cast that it brought into this movie. The lead stars are pretty big even today and to have them together in one movie at the time must have been a major coup for the studio, if only for the media mileage and publicity alone. But better than that, this is a pretty good movie all around.

Synopsis: The Way We Were is a 1973 romantic drama movie directed by Sydney Pollack. The screenplay was written by Arthur Laurents and went onto receive a number of awards nominations and won the Academy Awards for Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Original Song for "The Way We Were".

The movie generally follows the stories of two people - Katie Morosky (Barbra Streisand) and Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford). The two are as different as different can be. Katie a Marxist Jewish girl, who is against all efforts leading to war. Hubbell is a lot more carefree about things given his social status in life. The two first meet in college where Katie definitely feels attracted to Hubbell given his striking good looks and abilities as a writer. But of course his indifference to political matters also frustrates her. But they lose contact with one another after college.

The two meet again after World War II - Katie now works at a radio station while Hubbell is trying to get back into civilian life after serving in the US Navy as an officer. With the two reconnecting, the old feelings are rekindled and the two try to finally start a relationship. But they remain to be two highly different people with different beliefs and the result is an on-again, off-again deal as the two struggle to make things work. The rest of the movie follows their story as they progress through life as we wait to see if they'll even find sufficient common ground to remain together.

On some levels, the movie is rather heavy in terms of some of the more politically-charged content that drives the story. It never goes up to the level of some major socio-political commentary type piece, but we do get to explore some of these different ideas through the very personal perspective of the two characters. It's an interesting way to tackle pretty serious issues on a level that's a little easier for the average person to appreciate.

Barbra Streisand is in top form in this movie - she brings a lot of fire and spirit t her character, which is perfectly suited to her role as this political activist. She a woman of passion and every scene scenes to light up with her in it - or perhaps was practically tailored to support her.

I can't quite say the same for Robert Redford. While it's true that his character appears to have been written to be rather stoic almost the point of being entirely aloof, but there are still ways to make more of an impact on things. In many ways a lot of events just seem to happen around him instead of to him - and Barbra is the biggest whirlwind that seems to drift in and out of his character's life. But man, he's quite the handsome man and this movie captures him in his prime.

The overall plot has its share of endearing moments as is expected of any tale of romance. Barbra can certainly deliver a witty line with ease and she appears to be at her best when she's allowed to be more glib. Redford has the stature to be able to go toe-to-toe with her and more than dish out his share of barbs in turn. And this is really where their chemistry sort of shines forth the most - when it seems they're almost at one another's throats.

But in contrast, the story can drag a bit as we watch them get together, then break up, and then get together again. This is a bit of a trope of romance stories by now, but it still doesn't feel all that amazingly well done here. The first few times it sort of works but then later on it stops making as much sense. But the ending, at least, is still a bit of a surprise. Even though it doesn't quite measure up to be a great ending, it wasn't too much of a cop-out despite its relative ambiguity.

The Way We Were isn't a movie that's going to change the world, but it does feature some great acting and those sort of memorable moments that help keep such movies in the memories of fans. Thus it rates a respectable 3.5 political speeches that Katie always seems to be delivering out of a possible 5.

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