Plot: What’s it about?
Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O’Neal) comes from a wealthy family and attends Harvard Law, as well as being involved in the hockey program there. On the other hand, Jennifer Cavalieri (Ali MacGraw) has a more humble background and goes to Radcliffe, where she studies music. The two seem to have little in common, but once they meet and have a chance to talk, some sparks begin to appear between them. Oliver and Jennifer soon start a real relationship, falling more in love all the time, but their happiness is soon to be lessened. After they decide to get married, Oliver’s father (Ray Milland) threatens to remove him from the will, which leaves him pretty much disowned from his own parents. This takes a lot out of Oliver, but his love is strong and the two still get married, though their marriage begins at a low time in Oliver’s life. As time passes, Jennifer tries to patch up the relationship between Oliver and his father, but it does little good in the end. The two decide to have children and begin their own family, but some tragic news soon shatters their happiness…
In the realm of romance movies, Love Story is one of the better entries in my book, because it packs the emotional punch, but isn’t too sappy in the end. Yes, it has a lot of sap to be sure, but not as much as you might expect, never too much. This was a huge financial success and even garnered some Oscar nominations, so it seemed to have admirers on both sides of the aisle, both audiences and critics. The story is pretty basic and unfolds in predictable form, but most romance movies follow that formula, so I can’t be too critical in that respect. Arthur Hiller’s direction is solid, but never too flashy and that ensures the focus remains where it should be, on our main characters and the events that shape their lives. Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal turn in good lead performances, while the supporting cast includes such names as Ray Milland, John Marley, and Tommy Lee Jones. I wouldn’t go as far as to call this a great film, but Love Story is one of the better romance movies of the time, so I think genre fans will be most interested. I was shocked to see Paramount has included some extras also, so the high price is more than justified in this case.
Although both leads here give standout performances, I think Ryan O’Neal’s work is a shade more impressive, though not by much. This was only his second feature film, but O’Neal seems so relaxed and natural, very solid work indeed. He seems to be able to play the regular guy very well and in this case, that’s exactly what the role needed to be. I find him to be a nice person, but not the usual “too perfect” man we often see in these romance driven pictures. In truth, it is how normal these lead characters are that make Love Story work, as it seems real, as opposed to a far fetched romantic fantasy of some kind. You can also see O’Neal in such films as A Bridge Too Far, The Main Event, Zero Effect, Tough Guys Don’t Dance, Paper Moon, and Green Ice. The cast here also includes Ali MacGraw (The Getaway, Convoy), Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend, Panic in Year Zero), John Marley (The Godfather, Cat Ballou), Katharine Balfour (Music for Millions, Tv’s Dark Shadows), and Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive, Natural Born Killers).
Video: How does it look?
Love Story is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This film was shot in a very soft style, so expect that as you watch here and in the end, I think the movie’s intended visual style comes across well here. The soft approach lessens detail to an extent, but the image looks very good and that softness adds a lot to the experience, I think so at least. The colors reflect the softness, but still look bright and as far as flesh tones, they’re also natural and stable. I found contrast to be effected by both the softness and the grain here, so it is good, but not as sharp as I would have liked. In the end, this is the best home video edition of Love Story, but it is not a reference level transfer by any means.
Audio: How does it sound?
As you should be able to guess, this film is not an audio powerhouse, so while the included mono track is basic, it proves to be sufficient. It does seem like age has taken a toll on the materials, but not to an extreme level, so I wasn’t too let down. The dialogue is thin, but easy to understand, while the sound effects are in decent enough form. The excellent musical score is well presented, though again limited by the mono track’s abilities. This is not a great track to be sure, but it handles the basics and is acceptable, though I would love a new restored and remixed edition. This disc also includes English subtitles, in case you’ll need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
I had to pinch myself, but yes, Paramount has included some extras here, this is not a typo by any means. An audio commentary track with director Arthur Hiller is the main draw, but I wasn’t all that taken with his session. Hiller is well spoken, though a tad on the dry side, but the track is informative at times. I am pleased to see Paramount put a little effort into this release, so even though Hiller’s comments aren’t always that great, it’s better than nothing in the end. This disc also includes a brief (14 minutes) retrospective featurette, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.