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The Way We Were’ avoids chick-flick clichés

Grace Myers | Friday, October 14, 2005

“The Way We Were” is, on the surface, typical romance movie: gorgeous guy meets gorgeous girl. But don’t be fooled by this or the beach scene on the DVD cover – it’s definitely not a typical chick flick.

This 1973 movie, directed by Sydney Pollack, was highly successful. It received two Academy Awards for Best Music and Best Song, as a result of Marvin Hamlisch’s superb compositions. It was also nominated in four categories, including Best Actress. The unique, striking characters, the turbulent political setting and highly original music make “The Way We Were” unforgettable. Its popularity has seen a recent resurgence because of Sex and the City’s imitation of the movie in portraying Mr. Big and Carrie’s melancholy goodbye scene in the second season’s finale.

“The Way We Were” begins at the end of World War II during the characters’ college years. Barbara Streisand plays Katie Morosky, a striking Jewish girl who can’t control her zeal for liberal activism. She is initially nauseated by the beautiful, all-American athlete with an unexpected gift for fiction writing Hubble Gardiner, played by Robert Redford. But he begins one of his short stories, “Like his country, things had come too easily for him,” which Katie strongly agrees with. Despite her intense political beliefs and Hubble’s privileged background, the two find themselves enamored with each other.

Eight years later, the two unexpectedly reunite in a nightclub in New York City. Katie is a worker at a left-wing radio station and Hubble is a military officer. Of course, the two conquer their differences, Katie’s political ambitions and Hubble’s contemptible elitist network of friends, and fall madly in love. They marry and Hubble publishes his first novel, which fails, sending him into severe depression. They then move off to Hollywood so that he can pursue a career in screen-writing. Despite his great charm and beauty, Hubble is a weak character, drifting in and out of the strong and independent Katie’s life. He jumps at the chance his friend gives him to sell out, working in Hollywood during the troublesome McCarthy era.

The couple adjusts to their new home and Hubble becomes somewhat successful, but the intense hunt for communists in Hollywood becomes troublesome to Katie, who begins a crusade in defense of the Hollywood 10. At the HUAC meeting, Katie fights for her principles and for freedom of speech. Hubble, however, doesn’t want to help her or be part of the trial in any way, believing that political fighting doesn’t help anyone get anywhere. They cannot resolve their differences again and come to the understanding that they are too different to stay together. They split up without trying to resolve anything, knowing that they can’t change each other.

“The Way We Were” is a beautiful romance story. It is somewhat disappointing that the couple does not stay together, but is more realistic and romantic in that their love is so strong that they remain fond of each other, even though they are not together. The greatest facet of the movie is Barbra Streisand’s fantastic acting. She is fiercely energetic and intelligent, while also feminine and vulnerable.

The movie confronts a lot of issues, which is admirable, but not completely successful. The political implications presented and the portrayal of an impossible love are large tasks for a romance story to deal with. At times they seem a bit forced. However, the superb acting by Streisand, incredible music and intelligent and original writing redeem these flaws.