Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Way We Were

I watched this again last weekend with Alison, who had never seen it. Nothing makes me happier than watching a good movie with someone experiencing it for the first time. This was, of course, no disappointment. The Way We Were never is. It was a Sunday afternoon. We drank beer, made stuffed tomatoes, and cried over Katie and Hubbell and Hollywood and ice boxes and desperate phone calls. Yes, we said with knowing nods and furrowed brows. We have been there.

Barbara Streisand is never better and Robert Redford is DREAMY. The original Brad Pitt, if you will. Don't believe me? Skip to the white turtleneck sweater scene, the part when Hubbell tells Katie that 'he sold one' and Katie babbles over Mrs. Kingston marrying the Duke of Windsor. Da-reamy.

The beauty of The Way We Were really exists in its truth. Girls like Katie don't end up with guys like Hubbell. And that is okay. Beautiful even. As retold by Miss Bradshaw and company, this movie is really about the curly haired girls. The Katies of this world. Yes, its a love story and the telling of the relationship is quite important, but the story really exists in Katie.

Katie speaks her mind, fights for her causes, forms rallies and demands that everyone around her follow suit. She is the political girl, the working girl, the smart girl. She is the type of girl who made friends with her professors and spent her Saturday nights volunteering or writing grants or working her third job. Katie was a caterer at her homecoming dance, and of course didn't have a date. And while she doesn't want to be part of America The Beautiful (as she calls the popular crowd) she can't help but show just the slightest bit of jealousy. This is where Streisand won us over... she tapped into Katie's human side. Into her one weakness. Hubbell Gardner.

Remember the scene after Hubbell sleeps at her place for the first time? The scene after the photo above? Painful. She loves him, its so obvious. And he says 'thank you for letting me crash.' Hopes his snoring didn't keep her up. Her orange juice and eggs and real coffee make a mockery of the woman who just moments earlier was pulling soldiers into the night club and screaming 'fascist!' at anyone in her way. Buttered toast and a freshly pressed suit coat suddenly cast a desperate light on her world. She begins to fall and we fall right beside her.

The love story is just that...lovely. Our hearts expand when Hubbell kisses her for the first time, in front of the fireplace, while talking about his writing. The beach scenes are epic, the laughter so real. Hubbell loves Katie, he really does, and she never stops adoring him, never stops believing in his work. Her eyes actually sparkle and he is finally able to be himself. Its perfect.

Although, I should mention that this perfect relationship is interrupted by the best scene in this movie, and maybe the best breakup scene of all time. (Loralei and Luke reenacted it during their first breakup, watch that if you haven't yet.) President Roosevelt has just died, and Hubbell's friends can do nothing but make jokes. This drives Katie nuts, always has. She makes a scene and Hubbell leaves her proverbial side. Ouch.

She goes home to her bathrobe and tears, he has a martini with JJ. Then Katie does the unthinkable. The worst thing a girl can do after a breakup, the end-all humiliation of the female heart... she calls him. She asks him to come over. Just until I fall asleep, she says. I promise I won't touch you. I just need my friend to help me through this. Help me through this, Hubbell. So he comes over and she asks why it couldn't be her (the guts, woman!) and you know the rest. He clenches his jaw, turns away, smiles that perfectly white teeth Robert Redford smile, slaps the wall, looks at her in complete exasperation... and takes her back.

The second breakup is less painful, or more-so, depending how you look at it. Its much less passionate, way cleaner, and of course more mature. But it hurts knowing that it really is the end, that Katie is going to DC and that Hubbell really can't love her enough. The Red Scare may have had something to do with it, the maturing I mean. The politics get absolutely crazy, just as they did in that rarely portrayed portion of Hollywood's past, and everyone is forced to reevaluate themselves and their needs. And Katie needs to snap back into her own life. She owes it to herself, who in the end (listen up, girls) is more important than Hubbell.

A few things are confusing in this movie, the biggest being the baby. Hubbell Gardner as absent father? Does that seem odd to anyone else? I can only blame the times, and the bi coastal separation of parents. Yeah? The other is Katie's long red fingernails... wowza. I guess Streisand will always be Streisand. And that's a good thing.

I am lucky enough to live in New York City and have to admit, in complete embarrassment, that I pause to embrace the last scene of The Way We Were every time I pass the Plaza Hotel and its square at 59th and 5th. Your girl is lovely, Hubbell. And then I, like Katie, step back into the city to continue passing out my fliers.


La said...

such a great description of that movie. i must see it again right now.

Katie Henly said...

goose.bumps... I love how my name is Katie.

Sarah Meyer said...

This movie is best when seen on Valentine's day (as a reminder of love's many dimensions) and with a spam burger (trust me).

Babs is great in this movie. It is right behind Hello Dolly! on my list.

Redford is also incredible, but this also makes number 2 on my list, right behind the Natural.