The Way We Were (Blu-ray)
Twilight Time / 1973 / 118 mins / PG
The Way We Were manages to be one of the most peculiar and intriguing romance films out there. It's not because it has a well-written or even the most stable story. It's not because it delves into the political climate of the eras from 1930-1950 which deeply affects the characters. And it's not even because of the award-winning and best-selling soundtrack. What makes this picture work (maybe the only thing that makes it work) is how well Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand define their characters.
Unlike most romances which seem to have a simple path for the characters, this screenplay by Arthur Laurents makes the characters a little more real. That's partially due to the fact that he based it on his own life from his college years of the 30's to the tense 1950's. The result is a rather unconventional love story. Katie Morosky (Barbra Streisand) and Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford) are two vastly different opposites that somehow attract. Katie is a dead-serious political protester while Hubbell is a carefree frat boy. Their views on the world differ greatly and end up becoming the allure.
As the film progresses up to the 1950's, we see the two clash in a way that we ultimately know it just won't work out. Katie still thinks she can make it work as does Hubbell in a sort of intellectual game of chicken, waiting for the first one to cave in their beliefs. Unfortunately, most of the film just focuses on their dialogue exchanges rather than key moments that are mostly glazed over in montages sequences. Towards the end of the picture, Katie has a child. We never once see that child or how Katie intends to raise her. It feels like the baby enters the picture more as a scenario than an event. To be honest, it felt like a useless element that could've been trimmed from the picture.
What makes The Way We Were watchable is for the performances. Director Sydney Pollack knew how to perfectly deal on the right emotions and really brought it out with Streisand and Redford. Their relationship has a wicked bite of realism that makes it both awkward and intriguing. It's a unique observation of two flawed individuals that desperately tried to make things work without conceding their world view. If it had just taken the time to expand a little more on these areas, it could've been one of the best romance movies of all-time. Then again, the two leads turn in such a fantastic performance that for some it'll be enough to justify as a classic.
Twilight Time once again delivers a spectacularly vibrant restoration for Blu-ray. The 1080p transfer of the 2.35:1 widescreen video looks so darn clear and crisp that it's almost night and day between this and the DVD release. The English 5.1 DTS-HD MA sounds beautiful and has a real sense of immersion for dialogue in certain locations. Of course, the iconic soundtrack shines as well.
The special features are mostly the same extras carried over from the 2004 release, but they're still darn good ones. Included is a one-hour retrospective with interviews from Barbra Streisand and Sydney Pollack on almost every aspect of the film. Also included is two audio commentaries, one with Pollack and the other with film historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman. And, as with all Twilight Time releases, an isolated score track is included even though most of the music is given enough space through multiple silent montages.
The Way We Were manages to succeed with the stellar performances by Streisand and Redford despite an uneven story. It comes up short of being an intriguing character drama as it decides to go more for the melodramatic, but I'm sure most of the key audience will be more impressed by the expected romance beats. For the hardcore romance fans, The Way We Were will most likely be a staple especially on Blu-ray, but those who crave a little more character depth will find its compromises a bit maddening.
** The Way We Were is available exclusively via www.screenarchives.com... an excellent soundtrack and film specialty site **