According to Box Office Mojo, Love Story is the 36th biggest domestic grossing movie of all time. American Graffiti, Lawrence of Arabia, and Rear Window are just three of the sixty-four movies that trail it in the top one hundred. The film was nominated for seven Academy and seven golden globe awards, winning best score at the academy and winning five golden globe awards, thereby tying Doctor Zhivago, The Godfather, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and A Star is Born for most Golden Globe wins.
The film today is still on two AFI lists–100 Greatest Movie Quotes and 100 Greatest Love Stories–but to say it’s fallen out of favor would be an understatement. It has a 57% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has been adopted by the Harvard Cimson Key alumni association as a freshman orientation ritual to be viewed “in the manner of a midnight viewing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Acerbic reviews abound, and the few positive ones sheepishly claim it as a guilty pleasure.
I must say, I don’t really get it either way. Clearly, the film is not Oscar material, and that it should have beaten out The Godfather or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for ticket sales or anything else is ludicrous. It’s still an enjoyable film though, for those who like that sort of thing. Anyone who watches a film called Love Story and then hammers it for being schmaltzy is either being disingenuous or deserves exactly what they get. There’s no false advertising here. If the title alone doesn’t give it away, the trailer, poster art, and nonsensical tag line are all dead giveaways. So if this is in your Netflix queue, and you’ve already got your box of tissues and maybe a bowl of ice cream ready to go, fear not, you won’t be disappointed, and no apologies are needed. Ryan O’Neil is serviceable enough, as is the plot and dialogue, and Ali McGraw is sassy, adorable, gorgeous, and most importantly believable as a woman who gets what she wants and clearly makes her own choices, even when that means sublimating her own ambitions for the sake of her relationship, all 1970s the patriarchy is alive and well style. And if it’s not in your Netflix queue and you’re not sentimental, you should probably just move along. This poor film’s been beat up enough already.