Redford and Streisand Share Memories
I've watched "The Way We Were" a few times now and every time I am surprised by what a simple movie it is. It's simple because this is a movie purely about two people who are so in love but want such different things it can never last. That is it, we may have sub stories such as Katie campaigning against the House Committee on Un-American Activities when they targeted those in Hollywood but "The Way We Were" is simply about two people who are both so right yet so wrong for each other.
Katie (Barbra Streisand - What's Up, Doc?) and Hubbell (Robert Redford - The Hot Rock) both went to the same college but whilst he was the blonde hair, blue eyed track star she was the political campaigner, a lead speaker for communism. Yet despite being very different they both intrigued each other, she was intrigued by the writer behind the facade whilst he liked her ability to be funny. Some years after leaving college Katie bumps into Hubbell in New York and before long start seeing each other. But whilst being so in love their differences becoming an issue as Katie is still a campaigner whilst Hubbell likes the easy life.
So "The Way We Were" is simply a love story which focuses on political activist Katie and all round American Hubbell. We enter their story as Katie meets Hubbell some years after they were at college together and are treated to a long flashback of those college years. It's important that we do as it sets up their personalities with Katie being a woman always searching for a cause to support whilst Hubbell is the blonde hair, blue eyed American jock, a star on the track as well as a hit with the girls. And whilst total opposites we get the first inkling that they have chemistry as Katie discovers that behind the facade Hubbell has depth, a talent for writing which he is almost embarrassed about.
This intro works nicely to establish the characters before getting to the main part of "The Way We Were" which is their turbulent relationship as adults. Now turbulent is not really a good description as it doesn't take long for us to realise that Katie and Hubbell are very much in love. But they want different things; Katie is still a campaigner with strong political beliefs whilst Hubbell prefers the easy, fun life. It means that no matter how much they love each other their differences tear them apart be it Katie's pushy nature or Hubbell and his friends jokey nature.
All of which is very simple as is when they try to make their relationship work, both trying to compromise but never fully able to bend to what the other would like. But because it is so evident that they are so in love that we fall in love with them as a couple and in those moments of quiet together, away from their friends and the world everything looks so perfect. It is as I already mentioned makes "The Way We Were" remarkably simple but also beautiful, emotional and heartbreaking.
What helps "The Way We Were" feel more that is, is the solidity of the supporting stories with Katie's need to fight for justice and Hubbell wishing she wouldn't being pivotal especially when it comes to her campaigning against the House Committee on Un-American Activities. "The Way We Were" is by no means a historical movie but how it draws in the various issues which Katie campaigns for makes it all the more believable. And rather feeling like a weak movie where people are in a love hate relationship it really fleshes out the issues with their conflicted relationship.
Much of why "The Way We Were" works is down to the writing but also the casting of Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford. Both Streisand and Redford deliver great performances which Streisand giving us some of that snappy, wise cracking humour which she is so good at, flowing from her lips so naturally that you would think she was adlibbing. And Redford just has the perfect look, the blonde hair, the blue eyes, and the permanent smile it is simply perfect casting.
What this all boils down to is that "The Way We Were" is really a very simple movie, but a beautiful one at that. And the beauty comes from the great writing and the perfect casting of Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford who sell every single scene of this romantic drama, be it Katie and Hubbell being deeply in love or just being totally wrong for each other.