The only good thing to come out of the 1973 schlock-fest Love Story is the remixed Shirley Bassey cover of its instrumental theme. This is, of course, in spite of the fact that while watching Love Story I grew to loathe the theme song, to hate its repetitive cycle, to groan audibly and claw the air as if reaching for some imaginary shotgun stored on some imaginary end table. Love Story was physically painful. It was lethal to me, like some cinematic kryptonite which, at the molecular level was custom designed to make my face screw up so tightly in disgust that I couldn’t even speak out against its innumerable evils. I couldn’t laugh in Love Story because it wasn’t bad enough to be funny. I couldn’t empathize during Love Story because its characters are empty husks. I couldn’t even yell at the TV when the doctor reveals Ali MacGraw’s character is dying of an ailment without a name because I WAS TOO BUSY RAISING MY EYEBROWS AND MAKING THAT SLACK-JAWED, TEETH BARING FACE THAT EXPRESSES COMPLETE, ANGRY CONFUSION. Love Story is the worst. Love Story is a raw archetype, a graph that maps out everything to come over the next 40 years, but which adds nothing to the collected data. How Love Story was once nominated for Best Picture, I can’t fathom. How Ebert gave this movie four stars is beyond me. How Love Story became a sort of classic everyone knows about is mystery enough to qualify it as the eighth world wonder. Love Story makes those Nicholas Sparks movies look like nuanced masterpieces. Love Story makes The Way We Were into an absolute work of art. If the only two movies you ever saw were Love Story and Something Borrowed, you’d think that Something Borrowed was Citizen Kane.
Here is the plot of Love Story: it’s a love story. That’s it. Two mismatched kids meet at college (as they tend to). He’s (Ryan O’Neal) a jock from a family responsible for building half of Harvard, she’s (Ali MacGraw) a brainy librarian type with strange eyebrows and a father who owns a bakery. She’s got a smart mouth on her, and that’s how we know she’s got depth. She calls old moneybags “Preppie,” plays a verbal game of hard to get (but not at all), and says vomit-inducing cornball catchphrases like “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Which, as far as I can tell, is a gross exaggeration. They meet. There’s a lot of snow. BOOM! Love. BOOM! “We’re gonna get married!” BOOM! “It doesn’t matter what you say, daddykins, I’d rather live poor than without her!” BOOM! She’s sick. BOOM! She’s dead. Oh, I’m sorry, did I spoil the most predictable film ever for you? Good. Don’t watch it. Unless you’re searching for a primer in 1970’s prep university sportswear, you have no reason to revisit this film.
"DR: The problem is more serious. Jenny is very sick.
O: Define "very sick".
DR: She's dying.
O: That's impossible.
DR: I'm sorry to have to tell you this.
O: That's impossible. It's a mistake, it has to be.
O: That's impossible. It's a mistake, it has to be.
DR: We repeated her blood test three times. The diagnosis is correct.
She'll have to be told soon. We can withhold treatment for a little while, but not for long.
We'll have to begin therapy sometime during the next few weeks.
O: She's only 24. Will it be painful?
DR: You'll want to talk to a haematologist. I can refer you to Dr Addison.
O: Yeah. What do I do? What can I do for Jenny?
DR: Act as normal as possible, for as long as possible. That's really the best thing." [source]
Tell me a six year-old couldn’t have written that. Tell me this isn’t a scene ripped straight from innocent versions of “playing doctor” complete with a little plastic satchel and a stethoscope that doesn’t work. The film leaps from a diagnosis of infertility to this conversation. Directly. Notice that the Doctor never gives his diagnosis, the one that was tested three times. My theory is that the film is presented in broad strokes because (like Twilight) its characters are designed to be sad, pathetic ciphers we fill in the gaps for. Somehow, the writers of both novel and film wanted their audience to ascribe their own identities to these people, or identify them as people we already know. If you’re a woman who can fathom falling for a sensitive, wealthy jock, or, if you’re a man who can fathom turning your back on your parents in the name of love, then this movie is supposed to be about you. When Jenny gets sick, she’s either you or your girlfriend. When Jenny dies, she does so too young. She is: your sister, daughter, girlfriend, malleable best friend, and you. Cue the tears, not for her, but for your own meddling little life. I don’t think I could ever cry while watching Love Story, but if I were going to, it would be because Jenny never gets to live. The story strips her down to a silly archetype destined to be the object of affection for Oliver. By 24, she’s taken, married, and dying. Though she’s experienced love (and some may argue that’s enough), she hasn’t experienced life. Ultimately, Love Story seems to ironically prove that love is often folly, that life is short, and that the sap and dreck the film wastes its time on really might be a waste of time for everyone. Screw the sugar-coated catchphrase, I want to hear someone say they're sorry. Someone should apologize for the events depicted in Love Story because I’m sorry Jenny spent the whole of her early 20’s trying to get pregnant, fighting class wars, and eventually dying too young. That's a raw deal. If you ask me? It's not the broken romance that deserves tears, it's the time Jenny winds up wasting or giving over to Oliver's story. She never gets hers. That's something to cry about.