Does anybody besides Lana Del Rey and me feel sad in the summertime? No? If you or anyone you love wants to wallow in the melancholy this summer season, check out the podcast Crybabies. It will remind you of things that are bittersweet and introduce you to some new crying triggers. One such reminder for me was the 1973 classic film The Way We Were.
Briefly, it features a love story between Barbra Streisand’s leftist activist Katie and Robert Redford’s all-American apathetic Hubbell.
I’ve been deeply in love with Redford since I first saw All the President’s Men when I was like 14, and this film just fuels that infatuation.
Sexy, sexy Bob Woodward
And how are you not in love with that smile?
Katie is serious, and is at her best when she is protesting something.
Hubbell is well-liked and doesn’t like to make waves.
Katie sees Hubbell’s potential as a writer, and pushes him to be his best self. She doesn’t force her politics onto him, but rather wants him to say something with his writing rather than crank out blasé stories.
Look how cute they are!
Hubbell recognizes that Katie is good for him, but ultimately he chooses the path of least resistance in their relationship and in his life.
That’s pretty much the thesis of the movie. #Heartbreak
There are, however, a couple of really strange parts of the movie that I definitely didn’t notice or remember.
Example one: Strange nonconsensual sex scene.
When Katie and Hubbell run into each other in 1944, she is a single working girl in New York City and he is a narcoleptic naval officer stationed in Washington but in NYC for some unknown reason. She sees him asleep at a bar in New York, they party some more, and she brings him home.
He passes out naked in her bed, she lies down naked next to him, and then he just sort of rolls on top of her and they have sex.
Not sure who took advantage of who, but it’s a little weird. He doesn’t appear to remember it in the morning.
Example two: Their daughter
[spoiler alert] They have their final breakup when Katie is pregnant and fighting HUAC, and Hubbell chooses to stay in LA and write boring McCarthy-approved scripts. He agrees to stay with her until she delivers their daughter, but in the final scene of the movie they reunite after a couple years and he clearly has no relationship with his child.
She tells him that he would be so proud of their daughter, and he asks if her husband is a good father to her. Wait, what?! Has he seen his child since the hospital? Does little Rachel know who her real father is? Did Hubbell at least pay Katie child support? Because raising a baby as a single working mother in the 1950s would be no picnic. But Katie seems fine with it.
It also had a couple things I enjoyed that I didn’t notice before:
Example A: Less restrained sexual mores
The film allows them to have what seems to be a scandalous pre-marital sex-riven relationship in the 1940s. She gives him a key in New York and they live together in LA, all without getting married.
Example B: Communism isn’t so bad
This combined with point A reminds me that this is a 1970s story set in the 1940s. Katie’s communist sympathies, which she expresses openly in college in the 1930s, probably would not have been presented as noble in a film produced in the 40s or 50s, even without HUAC. It’s a film that embraces the critique of war and the government in a rather tame albeit post-Vietnam way.
Example C: Young James Woods!
Overall, it’s a beautiful story about being true to yourself and the line between pushing someone to be their best and changing them. To his credit, Hubbell never tries to change Katie. He just knows he’s not willing to do what it takes to be with her forever.
This scene just kills me. And yes that is a poster of Stalin behind her:
And the Gilmore Girls reboot:
It’s a beautiful movie, and they don’t play the over-the-top (and Academy Award-winning) theme song much at all.