• U.S.

Cinema: Gloomy Tune

3 minute read
Richard Schickel


Directed by John Korty

Screenplay by Erich Segal and John Korty

What can you say about a two-hour movie that died? That from its first frame it seemed to lack spunk? That within minutes it be came clear that the people who conceived it lacked even the false creative energy that healthy cynicism can sometimes engender? That it finally succumbed not just to its failure to evoke the spirit of romance, but to a misbegotten sense of its own importance?

The Oliver of the title is, of course, Oliver Barrett IV, protagonist of Love Story (played again by Ryan O’Neal), and the picture follows him through a couple of years (it seems like more than that) of mooning over his wife Jenny’s untimely demise. He buries himself in idealistic lawyering and psychoanalysis, but remains immune not only to sex but even to quite innocent social overtures. Then one day in Central Park he encounters Marcie (Candice Bergen). Since she seems to have some of Jenny’s smart-mouthed spirit, he manages at last to accept her invitation to go to bed. This development actually spoils the film’s only promise; for a while it seemed that Oliver’s Story might turn into a remake of one of those old Doris Day-Rock Hudson films, with O’Neal in the Day part—endlessly tempted but ever virtuous.

Instead the pair almost instantly fall into the kind of gloomy wrangling it takes most married people years to discover. The problem is that Marcie is even richer than Oliver but shares none of his guilt over that enviable condition. Her pleasure in being one of the Bonwits of Bonwit Teller makes Oliver more and more sullen. The upshot is that he leaves her to join his own family’s business, a New England mill whose workers, he thinks, need his liberal-minded ministrations. The picture ends with a voice-over announcing his intention to make his good works Jenny’s monument.

No word about nice Marcie, and since Oliver remains the same sourpuss he was at the beginning, why have we been asked to attend this stupifying tale? Is it that Erich Segal is attempting to atone for the indecent commercial success of his first story with the sober—not to say pompous—tone of this sequel? Or is it simply that his property somehow fell into the hands of Director Korty, who is one of the least spirited operatives around? Feckless questions about a feckless project, no doubt.

But it should be noted that while many directors have failed to get good performances out of both his stars, Korty is the first to achieve the formerly unimaginable: he actually makes Candy Bergen look unattractive.

—Richard Schickel

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