Summertime Sadness: Review of “The Way We Were” (1973)

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?


According to Wikipedia, the film was a disaster to make, with a lot of drama behind the scenes. But I love it because it is just such a realistic story. Buzzfeed agrees with me.

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!


Look at that awkwardness:

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.

5 thoughts on “Summertime Sadness: Review of “The Way We Were” (1973)

  1. I just love this. But a couple things you didn’t mention:
    1) her hair. Is that a wig? How is that happening? I need it!
    2) Sex and the City. I’m sorry! But remember when Carrie does the “your girl is lovely, Hubble” thing to Big? And how all the women love the movie but Charlottes never seen it? I don’t mean to drag this dialogue into the gutter, but we can’t just pretend the SATC connection isn’t there to be made.


    1. You’re right, I did forget to mention the hair. The fact that “has it ironed” is a major plot point of the movie. And obviously I forgot about SATC’s tribute (and it’s probably referenced in many more shows), and I just re-watched it. Some thoughts on that scene:
      1. Samantha hasn’t seen it b/c it’s a chick movie
      2. Sarah Jessica Parker can’t hit the notes like Barbra Streisand
      3. Hubbell-Katie makes for a good parallel for both Luke-Lorelei and Big-Carrie
      4. I need to re-watch so much SATC


  2. Oh my god, this movie. So one of the first times I hung out with a friend of mine named Katie, I told her “K-K-K-Katie, be my C-C-C-Comrade”. She had no idea what I was talking about. Also I remember watching it for the first time and thinking the Halloween party scene, when she’s dressed as Zeppo with the trumpet thing and he’s the doctor or something and they’re joking around as being insanely swoon-worthy.


    1. I know! They are so cute together flirting in the corner. And, you’re right, Charlotte is the boring girl from Connecticut, but then she chooses to marry Harry, the “Katie-girl” of her dating pool.


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