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Love Story (DVD)


Love Story (DVD)

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Some films so effectively represent their eras that they serve as time capsules. What, then, do you call a film that seems to lock out time? A huge popular success upon its release in 1970, Love Story may not have improved over the years, but its attempts to engage the hot issues of the day while keeping them at arm's length now look fascinating. Privileged Harvard hockey star Ryan O'Neal sparks the ire of his demanding father (Ray Milland) when he falls in love with a foulmouthed fellow Ivy Leaguer (Ali McGraw) from the wrong side of the tracks, and whose ancestors hail from the wrong part of Europe. He splits with his family. They marry in an embarrassing self-scripted ceremony. He whines about his inability to secure a scholarship while driving around in a car that could probably pay for an entire dorm. After he lands a dream job, they move to New York, where she dies of a sudden case of leukemia. Despite one reference to hippies and another to "bringing the troops home for Christmas," Love Story seems to take place in a world apart from the time it portrays. Worse, it seems not to realize it, treating Milland's difficulty in accepting a daughter-in-law who can't trace her family's ancestry back to the Mayflower as a miniaturization of '60s-era intergenerational strife. All of which still seems less objectionable than the last-minute tragic ending of former classics professor Erich Segal's screenplay (adapted from his novel), and its reliance on a single inscrutable catchphrase. Maybe love does mean never having to say you're sorry, but Love Story's callous treatment of its shallow characters provides an even better definition of sadism. Director Arthur Hiller provides a credible dilution of New Wave devices, but their occasional effectiveness only underscores the unfortunate material they house: emotional pornography of the worst kind.