Tony Mastroianni Review Collection
"Way We Were" is like it was
Cleveland Press October 25, 1973
Slick, sudsy and almost old-fashioned is a movie entitled "The Way We Were." Except for a few changes in keeping with modern movie making, "The Way We Were" is essentially the romantic movie of the '30's and '40's.
Better color, more location filming, the fact that the romantic couple live together before getting married and that when they divorce they stay that way -- these are the principal differences.
But the formula remains the same -- one person is from the wrong side of the tracks, the road to true love is rocky, they fight and separate, which is a reason for good, weepy reunion scenes. The emphasis is on tears with a few laughs, a tugging at the heart that is so obvious you can see the strings.
Barbara Streisand is a poor but hard-working Jewish girl, the campus radical, the butt of jokes. Robert Redford is upper class WASP, handsome, easy going, an athlete, a talented writer and apparently not without a few dollars.
Those campus days are in the late 1930's and the cause is non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War. The romance begins later, in the early days of World War II. He is an officer in the Navy, handsome in his whites. She is working for a radio station, the Office of War Information and half-a-dozen other things.
They meet, she gets starry-eyed and getting him becomes one of her causes.
The fact that they are incompatible is readily apparent. She is without humor he takes things lightly. She is obsessed with her causes, lectures people, takes everything personally.
They marry anyway, move to Hollywood where he becomes a Hollywood writer. It is the time of the blacklisting, the Hollywood 10, another cause.
They drift apart finally, only to meet once more on the street years later for one more bitter-sweet moment, one more heart tug.
Arthur Laurents' screen play has the sort of dialog you shouldn't really listen to, not seriously that is. That any of this works at all is due to the performers. Miss Streisand and Redford make it real even if it isn't. They use all the tricks. She bites her lips and tosses her head. He pauses in the middle of a line, looks around. It's all needed.
She has the showier role but it's a character that never really changes. Redford has a tougher part and puts more into it. They both work hard to make it all sound like something other than the corny material it is.
The wars and the causes, the speeches and the lectures -- these are all part of the scenery, a backdrop for the actors. "The Way We Were" isn't about the way we were. It's about the movies we used to see.