Today, I watched Love Story, the #9 entry on AFI's 100 Years, 100 Passions list. Also? The screen debut of Tommy Lee Jones. Also? Nominated for Best Picture of 1970, but defeated by Patton, which if you know me you will know is one of my favorite films of all time. So instead of wrting about Love Story tonight, I will be listing all of the reasons Patton is awesome.
- The opening monologue in front of the American flag.
- Casting Karl Malden as Gen. Omar Bradley
- "Rommel, you magnificent bastard! I read your book!"
Ryan O'Neal plays Oliver Barrett IV, a Harvard student from a very wealthy family. At the school library, he meets Jenny Cavalleri (Ali McGraw), a confrontational Radcliffe student. The two hit it off, fall deeply in love, and decide to marry, despite his parents' objections. Oliver is accepted to Harvard law school, but Jenny must work to support them, because his father has cut them off. He graduates near the top of his class and is hired by a prestigious NYC firm. Now that the couple is doing well, they decide to have a baby, but are unable to conceive. A consultation with their doctor reveals that Jenny has only a short time left to live. As she undergoes therapy, the medical bills grow larger than Oliver's ability to pay them, and he is forced to swallow his pride and ask his father for money, but won't tell him why. After Jenny dies in his arms, he leaves the hospital to see his father waiting for him and offering an apology. He responds with a line that Jenny spoke to him earlier in the movie after a fight: "Love means never having to say you're sorry."
I liked the sum of this movie more than I liked its individual parts. It's entirely melodramatic, and the character of Jenny is annoying as hell (their first three conversations pretty much consist of nothing except her grilling him with question after sarcastic question). "Love means never having to say you're sorry" may just be one of the worst pieces of relationship advice of all time. And yet, taken as a whole, this was an enjoyable story to watch. Despite not identifying with their characters, I was still rooting for them as a couple, and there are a few scenes early in their relationship that made me laugh in a good way. I especially liked this exchange from their first conversation:
Jennifer: You look stupid and rich.
Oliver: Well, what if I'm smart and poor?
Jennifer: I'm smart and poor.
Oliver: Well what makes you so smart?
Jennifer: I wouldn't go out for coffee with you that's what.
Oliver: Well what if I wasn't even gonna ask you to go out for coffee with me?
Jennifer: Well that's what makes you stupid.
One thing you don't have to have seen the movie to appreciate, although it helps, is that Roger Ebert coined the term Ali McGraw disease after seeing it. Ali McGraw disease is a "Movie illness in which the only symptom is that the sufferer grows more beautiful as death approaches." Zing!
RATING - Forty years after its release, Love Story doesn't feel that original anymore, but it holds up. I give it four Pattons out of five.
LESSON - Love means never having to say you're sorry. Also, Patton is awesome.