Judge Patrick Naugle paints in misty water-colored memories.
Our review of The Way We Were, published January 6th, 2000, is also available.
"Memories…light the corners of my mind…"
The Way We Were focuses on two lovers: outspoken Jewish Marxist Katie Morosky (Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl) and Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford, All The President's Men), a charming upper crust student who has a knack for writing. The two meet during their college years (circa 1930) when Katie is a verbal supporter of the United States and their involvement in the Spanish Civil War. The film flash-forwards to World War II, and the two meet up again, Katie working in broadcast radio and Hubbell assigned to the Navy. The twosome begin a whirlwind romance that ends in marriage and a screenwriting career for Hubbell, but with complications on the horizon (including the infamous Hollywood blacklist), Hubbell and Katie's union may not weather the oncoming storm.
Just the title The Way We Were summons bittersweet sentiment. The words are a vision of the past, into what once was and shall never be again. It's a feeling—sometimes almost intangible—that can spring from longing and a desire to know happiness again. Everyone has been there, wishing to have something or be somewhere that now belongs to history.
The Way We Were drums up a feeling of love long gone, of promises broken and dreams misplaced. As directed by the late, great Sydney Pollack (The Firm), the film has a hazy, romantic quality to it. Both Streisand and Redford have a nice chemistry together (even if it doesn't set the screen on fire). Pollack often focuses just on the two actors, allowing their relationship to unfold without being flashy or showy. Pollack has always made smart, insightful, and often romantic movies (including Out of Africa, which also starred Redford). The Way We Were is certainly no exception.
It's a pleasure to watch both Streisand and Redford in their roles. Streisand is especially good Katie, a stubborn political tigress who has a strong independent streak and a lot of moxie. Streisand has always been a seriously under appreciated actress of great strength. She is often able to convey a range of emotions in just one look; an example is when Redford's Hubbell stumbles into her apartment drunk, makes love to her, and in those moments (he doesn't know it's her) she's both ecstatic and heartbroken. Redford's Hubbell isn't quite as complex or engaging as Katie, but he's still a dramatic force to be reckoned with. Redford has always had an easy going onscreen charm, and with The Way We Were he comes off as charming and funny as well as pensive. With their easy chemistry, both actors give a deeper sense of purpose. Movie goers should keep an eye out for minor supporting characters played by a young James Woods (Once Upon a Time in America) and Lois Chiles (Creepshow 2).
Those expecting a fast paced movie will be disappointed; The Way We Were unfolds slowly, letting the story and characters emerge on their own terms. The production design by Stephen B. Grimes (Never Say Never Again) is excellent; the sets and costumes are all spot on and evoke a time long since past. If the film falters, it's during the second act. Screenwriter Author Laurents (Alfred Hitchcock's Rope) shifts the story—based on his own life in college—from a heartbreaking and bittersweet breakup to a sudden marriage that seems complexly implausible. It's clear the two characters are not meant for each other, but they get married anyway, which I found difficult to believe.
Presented in 2.40:1 widescreen in 1080p high definition, Twilight Time has done a fantastic job on this Sony title; the colors look deep and well saturated with dark black levels. The transfer retains some grain that gives a warm, natural look. For a movie now over forty years old, The Way We Were truly sparkles on Blu-ray. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround in English. This is a very good 5.1 mix on an older film. There are a few directional effects here and there (especially during the opening titles featuring Streisand's title theme song), but it never tries to reinvent the wheel. Overall this is a very good audio mix. Also included is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix in English, as well as English subtitles.
Bonus features include two audio commentaries (one by director Sydney Pollack, and a second with Twilight Time's Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman), an hour-long retrospective ("Looking Back"), an isolated score track, and a theatrical trailer for the film.
The Way We Were is the kind of movie Hollywood doesn't make anymore. Instead of being a straight forward romantic drama, it also has the desire to inject politics (and intelligence) into the story. It doesn't want to just be about two people falling in love, but about what it means when two people fall in love despite their differences. I don't want to spoil the end of the movie for those who haven't seen it, but let's just say it ends as it should, as it must, and only as it can. Hardly a perfect film, but it works where it needs to and that's enough.
Worth a look, but hurry up. Twilight Time's pressing is limited to 3,000 copies.
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Studio: Twilight Time
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