The movie critique portion of this review was written by my colleague Michele Arbir.
“What can you say about a 25-year-old girl who died?” This is the first line of both Erich Segal’s novel and the 1970’s movie adaption Love Story, an American romantic drama directed by Arthur Hiller and starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal. That first line evokes the proper goose pimples and a lump in the throat that heightens your emotions of every moment that is to follow in this film. Make sure you have your tissue box!
When wealthy Harvard University law student Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O’Neal) meets Jenny Cavilleri (Ali MacGraw), a middle-class girl who is studying music at Radcliffe College, it’s love at first sight. Despite the protests of Oliver’s father (Ray Milland), the young couple marry. Oliver finds a job at a legal firm in New York City, but when they go to find out why they can’t conceive a child their happy life comes crashing down. It’s discovered that Jenny has a terminal illness. Together, they try to cope with the situation as best they can.
I was almost three years old when this movie came out. My first time seeing it was when the VHS was released. A few weeks ago my favorite show CBS Sunday Morning did a segment on the film. Next, cohort Dillon had this on the list for review and here we are with a breath-taking love story, a magical score and simple lessons to be learned about romantic companionship.
Director Arthur Hiller put this together with great skill. The movie was made in Boston during the bright colors of fall, and later the clean, brilliant snow is the backdrop for the romance. When death hovers over the couple it is cold and snowy, but it is old snow and the light is muted. You see two figures, arms around each other, trudging through the snow, growing smaller as the camera pulls back, defenseless and alone in their sorrow. Throughout it all a romantic theme by composer Francis Lai throbs and pulsates on the soundtrack. The music alone will have your eyes tearing up.
To this day Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal are friends. I really couldn’t see anyone else playing the part of Jenny. She portrays a girl, lovely but not in the made up, phony way that movie heroines so often are. Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal’s palpable chemistry and quippy banter in this movie made them both stars. Ryan O’Neal plays the perfect Harvard Preppy, and John Marley, as the girl’s father, comes on like a breath of fresh air just when things come crumbling down. John Marley and Ray Milland both give wonderful performances as the couple’s respective fathers. Tommy Lee Jones also makes his film debut in a minor role as O’Neal’s roommate.
You could look at this movie as a 1970’s “Romeo and Juliet”. One that probably left adolescent girls sobbing and coming back for more. Love Story, I’m sure, had the same effect, not only on them but on their mothers and grandmothers as well. Having not seen the movie in many years, it’s one of the first movies I remembered that had the theme of a couple falling in love and one dies of cancer. It was interesting watching the way people were and how they reacted in the 60s-70s. If you are like me and every now and then you need a good cry, this is the movie for it. It’s a wonderful and timeless ‘Love Story’.
Love Story gets a much-needed Blu-Ray upgrade with a stellar 1080p transfer sourced from a 4K remaster. This presentation is a knockout that preserves the filmic look with proper film grain and texture throughout. The level of clarity and detail on this release is truly something to behold. There are very subtle details in the production design that are visible here for the first time from minute details on outfits to some of the complexities of the environments. The black levels are extremely deep and allow for true detail to come through. There are a lot of bold colors in the film that pop off the screen with an immaculate vibrancy. Skin tones are natural and lend themselves to showcasing an amazing amount of detail. Paramount has done an excellent job of restoring this, as all print damage has been cleaned up without messing with the natural look of the film. Those who have been waiting for this one to be treated with the proper respect on Blu-Ray should feel it was worth the wait.
The Blu-Ray comes with both a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and mono lossless soundtrack that sonically represents the film perfectly. The activity focuses heavily on the front channels with the thematically evocative score from Francis Lai filling the room appropriately. Music is used skillfully throughout the presentation, but it never overpowers the dialogue or other important information. The classic dialogue comes through clearly and never falls victim to any digital anomalies. Rear speakers get some occasional activity with ambient sounds, but it is not a standout in that regard. There is next to nothing in the way of low end support for this film. This track accomplishes everything it needs to do really well.
- Audio Commentary: Director Arthur Hiller delivers a steady and entertaining track in which he tackles the themes of the story, the real-world influences on the film, working with the actors, the minor differences between the novel and the film, his career as a whole and more fun anecdotes. There are moments of silence, but when he does speak it is usually worthwhile.
- TCM Introduction with Ben Mankiewicz: A nearly four-minute introduction in which the film historian discusses the film’s novel counterpart, the influence of producer Robert Evans, the performers in the film and more.
- Filmmaker Focus – Leonard Maltin on Love Story: A nearly seven-minute new featurette in which the famous film critic discusses the career of director Arthur Hiller, the place of this film in the history of Paramount, the timeless story, the engrossing direction, the lovely score, the cultural impact and more.
- Love Story – A Classic Remembered: A fifteen-minute archival piece that discusses the film’s legacy in greater detail, the budget limitations, the direction from Arthur Hiller, the difficulties of shooting certain scenes, making the film the best version of itself and more.
- Theatrical Trailer: A three-minute trailer which relies on the iconic music and still from the movie rather than actual scenes. This is a very interesting way to structure a trailer that works to the film’s benefit.
Love Story has remained one of the all-time great depictions of love committed to film over the last fifty years. Even knowing how the story plays out, you cannot help but have your heart broken in the best way each time. The performances from Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal are truly spectacular and are essential in making this film the classic it is known to be. Paramount has released a brand-new Blu-Ray that sports a flawless A/V presentation and a couple of new special features to accompany the legacy supplements. For fans of the film, you could not ask for a better release of this beloved film. Recommended
Paramount Presents Love Story is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.