Watching "Oliver's Story" is like running into some old antagonist who's fallen into a rummy stupor since your last encounter. What once inspired active hostility now inspires only fleeting pity.
Deluded and synthetic as it was, "Love Story" at least had a maudlin substance capable of provoking a reaction. If nothing else, it deserved to be ridiculed.The disparity between Erich Segal's adoring conception of the illfated heroine and Ali MacGraw's hatefully smug embodiment of Jenny Cavilleri Barrett was morbidly fascinating.
"Oliver's Story" is supposed to bring us up to date on Jenny's bereaved spouse, Oliver Bareett IV, now specializing in do-gooding cases for a New York law firm and romatically inhibited by his continuing devotion to the memory of Jenny. Ryan O'Neal, likably sincere as Oliver in "Lover story," recreates the role in the sequel, but noe he looks as depleted as the material.
Oliver isn't doing anything worth updating The only element in the sequel that might impress moviegoers as fresh is the reconciliation of Oliver with his capitalist father, a consummation dropped from the film version of "Love Story." It scarcely seems worth financing a whole move eight years later to pick up a dangling storey thread, especially when the finished product turns out to be so listless and enervating. Five minutes after "Oliver's Story" is over you have only faint memories of having seen a movie.
The scenario, distilled from the novel by Segal in collaboration with director John Korty, who seems to have blundered into an even drearier flop than "Alex and the Gypsy," begins on the day of Jenny's funeral. As Oliver stares at the casket, Jennyhs father, now played by Edward Binns, offers a memorable snippet of consolation: "She's not in there, Oliver. She's somewhere else."
The continuity jumps ahead somewhat confusingly to Oliver and Mr. Cavilleri reuniting in New York about 1, months later. The confusing arises partly because eight years have, in fact, passed since "Love Story" blighted the Christmas of 1970 and partly because O'Neal looks prematurely over-the-hill, drained of vitality and beyong rejuvenation. Like George Segal, O'Neal now appears stale and hung-over from causes unrelated to the rolses he plays.
Mr. Cavilleri encourages Oliver to "plug back into life" to no avail. Married friends, perkily played by Swoosie Kurtz and Charles Haid, who was impressive earlier this year as the drug-pushing Hollywood creep Eddie Peace in "Who'll Stop the Rain," sets Oliver up with a shy young woman played by Nicola Pagett, but he's too inert to cultivate the acquaintance.
Oliver does strike up an affair with a divorced career woman named Marrie Bonwit (she turns out to be Bonwit's) whom he notices jogging through Central Park. You know Marcie, played by Candice Bergen, must be his type when she treats him with facetious contempt in this intitial encounter. Isn't that what he cherished in Jenny?
Nevertheless, the affair fizzles out and the movie expires with Oliver still an eligible drip, musing that
"Only the living need each other," apparently the logical refinement on "Love means never having to say you're sorry." Bergen and O'Neal aren't remotely sexy together, but they prompt similar feelings of disenchantment. It's remarkable the way they seem to be visibly aging without visibly maturing or improving as performers.
What prompted John Korty to believe that he could redeem this comtose material with a star as dead-on-his-feet as O'Neal? Wishful thinking, probably. Audiences may see how Korty's discretion and sensitivity when ABC telecasts a shortened version of his Oscar-winning documentary about the DeBolt family of Piedmont, Claif. There's nothing in "Oliver's Story" to justify a sensitive touch.
One little detail evidently designed to illustrate the pathos of Oliver's solitary existence made me laugh outloud. It looks like a natural for Bruce Jay Friedman's "Lonely Guy" series. Oliver is standing in the background at the kitchen sink when a toaster in the foreground rings and a single piece of toast pops up. One piece of toast is the loneliest thing in theworld.