Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Way We Were

The Way We Were; romantic drama, USA, 1973; D: Sydney Pollack, S: Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, Patrick O'Neal

In a bar, Katy meets the drunk Hubbell, now an officer in World War II, whom she had a crush on during college. Back then, she was a communist activist and poor, while he was a rich lad. Back in present, she brings him to her apartment where they spend the night together. Little by little, they hook up. When Hubbell writes a novel, they move to Hollywood for a movie adaptation. However, the McCarthy persecutions start and Hubbell "sells himself out" by allowing the producers to appease the controversial plot points in the novel. Katy gets pregnant, but their differences cause the end of the relationship. Years later, they meet again in New York.

"The Way We Were" is a one-sided romance, a movie that channels all its weight to one character, Katy, while at the same time "stealing" almost all character development from her partner Hubbell, who is barely anything more than just a passive puppet who just jumps from one plot point to another like a grey stone. Overall, it is a romantic and correct, but standard film that achieves a few more elevated moments exclusively thanks to the excellent performance by Barbra Streisand, nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA. Robert Redford was not awarded a thankful role as Hubbell, which narrowed his potentials, except maybe in the sequence set during the McCarthy era when he admits he would rather "sell out" and continue to have his job than starve for ideals. Director Sydney Pollack did not show his skills to the fullest - though a simplistic story with bleak dialogues like this hardly gave even better directors than him their finest hour - whereas the break-up of the protagonists does not follow any sense or logic because the scenes interpreting them (Hubbell getting "blacklisted" for being married to a "communist" wife) were cut and thus a layer for its understanding was quashed. However, the college segment is finely directed whereas Pollack and Streisand showed their full potentials in at least one beautiful scene - when a drunk Hubbell lies unconscious in Katy's bed, she bashfully takes her clothes off and lies next to him, naked. Shyly, she looks at him and his shut eyes and has this smile that says more than a thousand words in one of the most magical moments of the 70s, even though it lasts for only a few seconds.


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