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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
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What's the story?
Radcliffe music major Jennifer Cavilleri (Ali McGraw) and Harvard man Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O'Neal) fall in love despite the differences in their backgrounds. Oliver is from an affluent WASP family while Jennifer grew up in her father's bakery in Rhode Island. Oliver is destined for Harvard Law School, while Jennifer's planning to study piano in Paris, but all of that changes when they announce their engagement. Unwilling to give in to his father's demand that they postpone their marriage, Oliver is cut off without a penny. Jennifer gives up music and takes a job as a teacher to support him while he's in law school. Her investment pays off when he graduates with honors and finds a well-paying job in New York. When Jennifer tries unsuccessfully to get pregnant, she's discovered to be terminally ill. She and Oliver spend their last days savoring every moment together.
Is it any good?
Although this corny reworking of Romeo and Juliet is almost saved by Ryan O'Neal's quietly smoldering charm, young viewers may be quick to hit the eject button. Jennifer's constant putdowns and continual sarcasm are so irritating that they undermine the plausibility of Oliver's love for her. Jennifer's illness and death is designed to evoke strong emotions, but viewers who can't get past her abrasive personality may have trouble summoning sympathy. However, sensitive teens may share in Oliver's intense feelings of loss and sadness.
Released in 1970, LOVE STORY was adapted from Erich Segal's best-selling novel and was equally popular onscreen. But the highly romanticized handling of Jennifer's death makes it unlikely to appeal to viewers today. Instead, audiences may cringe when they hear the famous line, "Love means never having to say you're sorry." These words were ubiquitous when this tearjerker was released, but their message hasn't aged particularly well.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how death and dying are portrayed in films. Was Jennifer's death portrayed realistically? Families who have experienced the dying and death of family member might compare that to the movie. Why do movie makers make death and dying either seem idyllic, as in this case, or gruesome, as in horror movies? Would you like to see movies that portray death realistically? Why or why not?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.