(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was to write a story told in reverse, so I chose a film that begins with its famously tragic end.)
No one expected a young wife to die.
The shock of injustice preceded the tears.
Her husband’s bereft
At the hole that she left
In their fleeting but passionate years.
No one expected, when they found success,
And scraping at pennies at last found reward.
Their happiness shone
At what they called their own
Before happiness fell on its sword.
No one expected, when poverty galled
And left them with little but love to sustain.
Their family fund
Had been purposely shunned
For unstable financial terrain.
No one expected, when vows were exchanged,
And hopes for the future loomed higher than fears.
Swayed not their affections,
Romantic and rash pioneers.
No one expected, when sweethearts were paired
In college, where many a romance is born.
They teased and poked fun
Till true love had begun
And devotion had discarded scorn.
No one expected a young wife would die
When she and her unlikely husband first met.
Yet if they had read
Of the heartaches ahead,
I know from love’s source
They’d have sailed the same course,
A course neither of them would regret.
MPAA rating: PG (probably should be PG-13 for the language)
Decades before John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars captured people’s hearts and minds with its intelligent but doomed romance, Love Story did the same thing for the children of the ‘70s, first as a book, then as a 1970 film. With two appealing leads in Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal and an Oscar-winning Francis Lai score that brings tears to my VC’s eyes, Love Story is considered one of the great romantic movies.
That distinction is accompanied by a reputation for sappiness, and somehow I expected to be more amused than moved by the melodrama. Love Story exceeded my expectations in that regard, thanks in large part to the sardonic banter between young Oliver Barrett IV (O’Neal) and Jenny Cavalleri (McGraw) as their initial love/hate relationship quickly drops the hate part. The chemistry is both obvious from the start and confirmed gradually until Oliver dismisses assumptions of a temporary affair and proposes marriage. Their bond is further proven by Oliver’s dismissal of his wealthy father’s objections, despite the loss of his financial support. Of course, living on love alone is nobly impractical, but watching the couple support each other just heightens the romance further.
And then she dies…. That’s not really a spoiler since the very first line and scene reveal it, but it still comes as a devastating tragedy after all that came before. The mawkish sentimentality that I was expecting is kept to a minimum, mainly during the pristine hospital scenes in which McGraw doesn’t look particularly ill and the most famous line: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” That quote is the main reason I expected silly schmaltz, since it’s both mystifying and utterly untrue. Having seen What’s Up, Doc? first, I always follow up that line with O’Neal’s comedic answer from 1972: “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
Since I now know that Love Story is actually a good movie, I suppose the main question is how it compares with its spiritual successors like The Fault in Our Stars. In this case, I definitely side with Fault in Our Stars, mainly because of a key fault in Love Story. My VC saw it long before I did and has told me that her main sticking point was the modern, areligious beliefs of the characters; my complaint is the same. The stated lack of belief in God only illustrates atheistic emptiness since the closing scenes end with no comfort or hope. She dies; it’s depressing. The end. At least The Fault in Our Stars leaves open the possibility of God and heaven, thanks to the optimism of Augustus Waters, and though the ending is equally heartbreaking, the one who died has extended meaning into the life of the one left behind. Love Story is tragic, and that’s it. Perhaps the poorly received sequel Oliver’s Story was meant to compensate for this weakness. Despite said flaw, the bulk of Love Story still provides a perfect dose of chick flick romance that can make women sob and men perhaps discreetly wipe a tear away.
Best line: (Oliver) “You know, Jenny, you’re not that great looking.” (Jenny) “I know. But can I help it if you think so?”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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