The Way We Were (1973)

Directed by Sydney Pollack
Cinematography Harry Stradling, Jr.

Told partly in flashback, it is the story of Katie Morosky (Barbra Streisand) and Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford). Their differences are immense: she is a stridently vocal Marxist Jew with strong anti-war opinions, and he is a carefree WASP with no particular political bent. While attending the same college, she is drawn to him because of his boyish good looks and his natural writing skill, which she finds captivating, although he doesn’t work very hard at it. He is intrigued by her conviction and her determination to persuade others to take up social causes. Their attraction is evident, but neither of them acts upon it, and they lose touch after graduation..

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The two meet again towards the end of World War II while Katie is working at a radio station, and Hubbell, having served as a naval officer in the South Pacific, is trying to return to civilian life. They fall in love despite the differences in their background and temperament. Soon, however, Katie is incensed by the cynical jokes Hubbell’s friends make at the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and is unable to understand his indifference towards their insensitivity and shallow dismissal of political engagement. At the same time, his serenity is disturbed by her lack of social graces and her polarizing postures. Hubbell breaks it off with Katie, but soon agrees to work things out, at least for a time.

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When Hubbell seeks a job as a Hollywood screenwriter, Katie believes he’s wasting his talent and encourages him to pursue writing as a serious challenge instead. Despite her growing frustration, they move to California, where, without much effort, he becomes a successful screenwriter, and the couple enjoy an affluent lifestyle. As the Hollywood blacklist grows and McCarthyism begins to encroach on their lives, Katie’s political activism resurfaces, jeopardizing Hubbell’s position and reputation.

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Alienated by Katie’s persistent abrasiveness, Hubbell has a liaison with Carol Ann, his college girlfriend and the departing ex-wife of his best friend J.J., even though Katie is pregnant. After the birth, however, Katie and Hubbell decide to part when she finally understands he is not the man she idealized when she fell in love with him and will always choose the easiest way out, whether it is cheating in his marriage or writing predictable stories for sitcoms. Hubbell, on the other hand, is exhausted, unable to live on the pedestal Katie erected for him and face her disappointment in his decision to compromise his potential.

Barbra Streisand in

Katie and Hubbell meet by chance some years after their divorce, in front of the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Hubbell, who is with a stylish beauty and apparently content, is now writing for a popular sitcom as one of a group of nameless writers. Katie, now remarried, invites Hubbell to come for a drink with his lady friend, but he confesses he can’t. He does inquire how their daughter Rachel is doing, just to ascertain that Katie’s new husband is a good father, but shows no intention to meet her.

Katie has remained faithful to who she is: flyers in hand, she is agitating for the newest political causes. Their past is behind them and all the two share now (besides their daughter, Rachel) is a missing sensation and the memory of the way they were.

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Epic and anchored by the history of the century.

20 January 2003 | by budmassey (cyberbarrister@gmail.com) (Indianapolis, IN) – See all my reviews

Oh, the way they used to make movies. Robert Redford and Babs. The ultimate star-crossed lovers, him a privileged golden boy for whom everything came too easy, but he knew it, and her a socialist politico who had to work harder for everything because she was plain, jewish, and poor.

Through Beekman Place, McCarthyism, Hollywood, World War II and the fact that they simply weren’t cut out for each other, they tried until they couldn’t try any more. Barbra is deep and intellectual, at least she wants to be, but ends up being the ultimate drama queen, “I’m not pretty enough for you, am I?” and “Nobody will ever love you like I do.” Redford is aloof and chilly and beautiful and as shallow as a mud puddle.

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BUT, if you can watch that last scene, “I can’t Katie.” “I know.” and not open up the waterworks then pack up your DVD player and give it to the Goodwill, because movies are not for you.

Epic and anchored by the history of the century, The title, The Way We Were refers to all of us. It’s how we once were when things mattered and we cared. Too often dismissed as a chick flick or a tear jerker, this is two of the best there ever were at their personal best.

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One of the best movies of the 70s…….

10/10
Author: mrcaw1 from United States
24 February 2004
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Contains Spoiler I read some of the comments registered here on The Way We Were and felt I needed to add my comments.

First of all, I think a lot of people are viewing this movie through politically correct, 21st century eyes.

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Comments have been made about Redford’s character “abandoning” his kid after he splits with Streisand’s character at the end of the movie. However, the movie implies that Streisand’s character moves from California back to New York while Redford’s character stays in sunny Hollywood. If this were the case, back in the 1940s it was not as common for people to hop on a plane going from coast to coast. It would not be uncommon at that time for a woman to remarry (which Streisand’s character does) and have her new husband basically raise the kid. Especially if the natural father was (as in this case) across the other side of the country. Societal customs were much different than they are now concerning extended families and such.

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The two sides of the country also represent the main characters. Sunny, beautiful, extroverted, physically inclined Hollywood (Redford) on the west coast and the grayer, more complex, intellectually inclined New York on the east coast (Streisand).

I’m also surprised at the comments regarding the characters motivations in finding the other attractive. I thought the movie made it very clear & believable. Both characters are acutely aware of their projected image to others and both characters feel trapped by these labels. This is something very significant that they share which bonds them. Redford’s character chafes at his pretty boy image yet is at the same time uncomfortable in the role of writer. When his short story is read in class, he is visibly uncomfortable yet still wants the approval of his classmates. Redford’s character wants to be strong yet have a vulnerable artistic side appreciated. So too is Streisand hampered by her image as an intellectual, wise cracking, thick skinned rebel. She, unconsciously perhaps, longs for a man to treat her gently, appreciate her as something more than a spokesperson, more as a unique person, a woman.

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Each of the characters tentatively pin pricks the other’s exterior reserve. Redford by trying to make Streisand smile, relax, not take life so seriously and Streisand by trying to make Redford feel respected and have his writing valued. Each receives from the other something most people won’t give them. Streisand is made to feel beautiful and interesting and sexy and something more than just her political beliefs while Streisand lets Redford know that beneath the blond surfer boy looks she sees depth and integrity.

The movie also deals with culture clashes within society. Redford’s character is the classic White Anglo Saxon Protestant upper class while Streisand the lower class ethnic, non-Christian. That they even consider forging a relationship between the two of them would have raised eyebrows at the time.

Barbra Streisand in

I’m surprised (though perhaps I missed it) that no one commented on two of the films most famous lines. In an argument near the end of the movie Redford & Streisand battle it out with Redford declaring that people are more important than principles with Streisand answering back that people are their principles.

I agree with many that this is one of the best movies to come out of Hollywood in the 1970s. I think both lead actors were perfectly cast and the period feeling of the WWII era is beautifully rendered.

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There are many wonderful “moments” throughout the film. The scene where Redford is out in the ocean on a small sailboat with his good friend and the two are playing the “best ever” game. When the friend calls out the category as year and Redford starts identifying first one year then another then another as his best or favorite years the viewer knows without being told that the years he’s listing are his years he’s spent with Streisand. The camera records Redford’s bittersweet face and pulls back, showing the friend on the boat silently witnessing his friend’s pain, then the camera pulls back in a helicopter shot showing the boat being bounced on the waves. It’s an extraordinarily poignant moment in film.

As mentioned in other reviews, the shots of Streisand brushing back Redford’s hair off his forehead are sexy and intimate without being graphic.

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Another moment I love is near the end of the film and Streisand says to Redford wouldn’t it be wonderful if the two of them were old and they would have survived all of this. Again, with brilliantly written dialogue and performed by professionals the movie accomplishes much depth without resorting to histrionics.

I think it’s a very romantic film along the lines of Casablanca and Gone With The Wind and Brief Encounter.

I say, rent the film, don’t try to over analyze it, just relax on the couch either by yourself or with your partner and just enjoy an old fashioned story of boy meets girl, boy woos girl, boy loses girl in the end.

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