In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb us poster

Us

Us is another thrilling exploration of the past and oppression this country is still too afraid to bring up. Peele wants us to talk, and…

Thumb sunset poster

Sunset

Nemes' suggestive, impressionistic approach takes some getting used to, but Sunset is worth the extra effort.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Love Story

  |   May Contain Spoilers

I read Love Story one morning in about fourteen minutes flat, out of simple curiosity. I wanted to discover why five and a half million people had actually bought it. I wasn't successful. I was so put off by Erich Segal's writing style, in fact, that I hardly wanted to see the movie at all. Segal's prose style is so revoltingly coy -- sort of a cross between a parody of Hemingway and the instructions on a soup can -- that his story is fatally infected.

The fact is, however, that the film of Love Story is infinitely better than the book. I think it has something to do with the quiet taste of Arthur Hiller, its director, who has put in all the things that Segal thought he was being clever to leave out. Things like color, character, personality, detail, and background. The interesting thing is that Hiller has saved the movie without substantially changing anything in the book. Both the screenplay and the novel were written at the same time, I understand, and if you've read the book, you've essentially read the screenplay. Nothing much is changed except the last meeting between Oliver and his father; Hiller felt the movie should end with the boy alone, and he was right. Otherwise, he's used Segal's situations and dialogue throughout.

Advertisement

But the Segal characters, on paper, were so devoid of any personality that they might actually have been transparent. Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal, who play the lovers on film, bring them to life in a way the novel didn't even attempt. They do it simply by being there, and having personalities.

The story by now is so well-known that there's no point in summarizing it for you. I would like to consider, however, the implications of "Love Story" as a three-, four-or five-handkerchief movie, a movie that wants viewers to cry at the end. Is this an unworthy purpose? Does the movie become unworthy, as Newsweek thought it did, simply because it has been mechanically contrived to tell us a beautiful, tragic tale? I don't think so. There's nothing contemptible about being moved to joy by a musical, to terror by a thriller, to excitement by a Western. Why shouldn't we get a little misty during a story about young lovers separated by death?

Hiller earns our emotional response because of the way he's directed the movie. The Segal book was so patently contrived to force those tears, and moved toward that object with such humorless determination, that it must have actually disgusted a lot of readers. The movie is mostly about life, however, and not death. And because Hiller makes the lovers into individuals, of course we're moved by the film's conclusion. Why not?

Popular Blog Posts

The Most Unforgettable Episodes of The Twilight Zone

Jessica Ritchey on the episodes of The Twilight Zone that she thinks about the most.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Netflix's The Umbrella Academy a Not-So-Super Fusion of X-Men and Watchmen

A review of Netflix's new superhero series, The Umbrella Academy.

S. Craig Zahler on Dragged Across Concrete, Casting Mel Gibson, His Writing Process and More

An interview with writer/director S. Craig Zahler about his new film, Dragged Across Concrete.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus