Written by Erich Segal and directed by Arthur Hiller, Love Story broke box-office records, and catapulted its stars, Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal, to stardom. While I’m the first to admit that Love Story remains a guilty pleasure more than forty years after its original theatrical release, it amazes me that this schmaltzy romantic drama was nominated for the best picture Oscar; thankfully, Patton took home top honors that year.
What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant? That she loved Mozart and Bach, the Beatles, and me? From the first line, Love Story let’s us know this is going to be a tearjerker. Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O’Neal) a Harvard Law student and Radcliffe music student Jennifer Cavelleri (Ali MacGraw) are from different sides of tracks, but from the moment they meet, their chemistry is undeniable.
Sparking the ire of his demanding father (Ray Milland), Oliver marries Jenny in an embarrassing self-scripted ceremony. Cut off from the family fortune, the couple struggles to pay Oliver’s way through Harvard Law School; Jenny takes a job as a private school teacher. Through it all, the young couple grows closer as Jennifer works to repair the relationship between father and son. Unfortunately, she doesn’t succeed. After graduating third in his class, Oliver takes a job with a prestigious New York law firm. With Oliver settled in a new job, the couple decides to have a baby. After failing to get pregnant, they consult a specialist, who informs Oliver that Jenny has a fatal illness. Though the illness is never named—typical of movies of the time—the rapid onset, her age and other symptoms would suggest leukemia.
Following doctor’s orders, Oliver doesn’t tell Jenny about her illness and attempts to live a “normal” life. Predictably, Jenny discovers she’s dying, and begins expensive cancer treatments in a bid to extend her life. Unable to afford the treatment, Oliver turns his father for help. However, instead of telling him what the money is really for, he tells him he needs it to pay for an abortion for a girl he got pregnant. When Jenny is dying, in the hospital, cradled in her husband’s arms, her complexion remains remarkably fresh. She doesn’t die in anguish; she slips away looking as beautiful as ever.
The acting of O’Neal and MacGraw is nothing to write home about. The both seem uncomfortable in their roles. Arthur Hiller provides the necessary “love montage,” where we see the couple play in the snow and walk hand in hand to sappy, romantic music. To that end, Francis Lai’s celebrated love theme sounds fine the first couple of times you here it; after that, you tend to want to pull your hair out. Today, the movie is terribly dated, but for some, it might still be a guilty pleasure.
Presented in 1.85:1, this 1080p transfer looks pretty good, offering as much color as the originally print likely allowed. The only oddity is a greenish hue that shows up in a couple of scenes as Oliver and Jenny are walking outside.
The DTS- HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track is front heavy, with very little surround activity. Dialogue is occasionally pinched, but it’s and upgrade from any SD versions.
English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles are included, as well as English captions for the hearing impaired.
The special features, recorded in 2000, appeared on the SD version:
- Audio Commentary with Director Arthur Hiller: If you want background information on this film, Hiller does a great job of providing it. He discusses how the success of Love Story removed Paramount from the brink of financial ruin, working with the actors, filming various scenes, etc.
- A Classic Remembered (15 min) features Hiller going over some of the same material in the commentary, as well as his selections for main and supporting cast members.
- Theatrical Trailer