|THE WAY WE WERE (1973)|
|Time: 118 mins.|
Won Academy Awards for Best Score and Best Song. Nominations for Best Actress, Art Direction, Cinematography and Costume Design.
|"If I push too hard it's because I want things to be better, I want us to be better, I want you to be better. Sure I make waves you have I mean you have to. And I'll keep making them till your everything you should be and will be. You'll never find anyone as good for you as I am, to believe in you as much as I do or to love you as much."|
I've never been a huge fan of either Robert Redford or Barbra Streisand, but after this film was mentioned with deep reverence on "Sex in the City", I decided to give it a go. I have to admit I wasn't sure what to expect. I couldn't exactly picture them together, which I guess is the whole point of the movie. I know they are both super stars for a reason, but I was surprised by how moved I was by this affair. I'm generally a sucker for over-the-top romance, but THE WAY WE WERE is not your typical boy meets girl story. Yes, it has them coming together and breaking apart against all odds, but not for the usual reasons. This film has some truly intimate and heartbreaking moments, you rarely get a chance to witness anymore. I was all ready to dislike Streisand's character, but I found that I just couldn't. Though filled with political convictions and a mouth that just won't quit, she was able to keep her character endearing without sacrificing her unstoppable energy. Not an easy task. Redford may be playing the pretty boy, but he also brings out a depth in his character I just wasn't expecting. Together they make a team you can't take your eyes off of. The film is still seriously hokey, but it goes down easier because of their enormous talent.
The film covers 2 decades in the lives of Katie (Streisand), an ardent Communist with strong convictions and a mouth to back them up, and Hubbell Gardner (Redford), an all-American athlete who seems to just float through life without a care in the world. Both are so wrapped up in their own lives they barely have time to notice each other. However, there's an underlying attraction between them they just can't deny. They do nothing about it during their college years, but Katie makes a bold first move when they bump into each other several years later in a nightclub. She manages to get her dream man into her apartment, but their first night together is less than memorable, especially for Hubble. Not about to let him go, she gives him her number and offers him a place to stay anytime he's in town. Clearly, this is nothing unusual for Hubble. When she finally does hear from him again, she pulls out all the stops and forcefully guilts him into having supper with her. This time, when they get horizontal, Hubble is very aware of who he's sleeping with...and Katie couldn't be happier.
Despite their drastically different backgrounds and outlooks on life, they embark on a wonderful romance. However, it's not always easy. She believes Hubbell and his upscale friends are silly and worthless because they don't participate in politics and treat everything like a joke. He thinks Katie needs to lighten up a little and try to be more understanding about others opinions and choice not to treat every conversation like a debate. Yes, there are horrible problems happening all over the world, but do they have to be fighting to solve them every hour of the day? When he gets the chance to go to Hollywood to adapt his first novel into a screenplay, Katie is horrified. Hubbell is too good a writer to demean himself on that kind of work. He should be working on his next novel, not selling his soul to the film industry. Hubbell's torn between his love for Katie and her vitality and his affection for his first girlfriend Carol Ann (Chiles), who's fun-loving, uncomplicated and supportive. A major argument at his friend J.J.'s (Dillman), threatens to separate the couple for good. Though Hubble may have enjoyed an easy ride out of life so far, he's deeper than he appears and Katie's love, friendship and fierce support are things that are hard to live without. No one has ever believed in him like Katie.
They eventually patch up things up, get married and move to the always sunny California coast with J.J. and Carol Ann in tow. Things seem to be going well between them and at the studio where Hubbell is adapting his novel with J.J. as the film's producer. However, by now it's the early 50s and the government is going after entertainers who once had Communist affiliations. She may have agreed to move to Hollywood, but she doesn't have to like it and he promised it would be temporary. Katie, still an ardent supporter of free speech and once a party member, is only able to stay silent so long against the Un-American Committee, which causes problems at work and at home. She is pregnant and Hubbell just wants to ride out the blacklist wave and concentrate on starting their family. Katie is not the only one amongst their friends who refuses to stay silent and her believes once again cause an irreparable rift between the two. A life of protest is not for Hubbell. He really tried because he truly loves Katie, but the stress is too much. In the end, they find happiness and fulfillment in their future lives, while looking back fondly on the great passion of they once knew.
As I said, really hokey. Yet somehow endearing, heart-wrenching and fun. This is an intelligently written romance that is unafraid to expose its characters weaknesses. Most of us have been through a relationship like this one, full of passion, but for someone you know you have no real future with. It shows the truth about life and love. Most of the time it isn't a big thing that separates a couple, but the fact that at some fundamental level they just don't want the same things out of life. Romance is wonderful, but if you don't have the same energy and expectations, it will never work. We long for Hubbell and Katie to work out their differences, yet at the same time are glad that they are smart enough to know better, to be selfish and in the end, find someone who will make them ultimately happy. Sometimes you just have to let go. Both actors manage to convey the passion and pain of this unlucky love affair. Redford is stunningly sexy and Babs is both smart and lovely. She makes her unconventional looks sparkle and the more traditional women look bland by comparison.
With wonderful costumes, gripping, intelligent dialogue and a decades sweeping story, THE WAY WE WERE is a film that conveys a strong sense of time, place and personality. If you like unconventional love stories, this is definitely one to check out. However, if you actively dislike either of the leads you will want to steer clear of this melodrama. Their performances are the only thing that keep this film watchable.