So, we watched Dr. Zhivago a couple of evenings this week (that thing is loooong, took us more than one night to finish it). We’ve been watching some classics recently – some we had never seen or seen so long ago we couldn’t remember them, and Drew brought this home for us since he’d never seen it. I remember watching it once as a young girl, but didn’t remember a whole lot of it, so it was fun to watch it with Drew.
I mentioned on Facebook the other day that I often find when I watch movies that are talked about as great movies or that are still popular today and show up on a lot of people's favorite lists, often I don’t get why they are considered classics. Citizen Kane was one of those for me. At the end of that one Drew and I looked at each other and said, “That was it? Big deal.” I know it’s famous for some new directorial things or whatever, but, still, I don’t get it. I also don’t get the big deal about The Graduate (sorry, Dad.). The music in that one is great, the movie, I didn’t so much like. Maybe I need to watch it again now that I'm grown up? The reason I was saying anything about it on Facebook was because we had just watched Rebel Without a Cause. (I almost typed without a Clue…..) I was not impressed. At all. Another one where we looked at each other and said, “That was it?” Cheesy music, cheesy acting, story line and dialogue I had trouble buying into. I’m thinking that one is popular because James Dean died shortly after it was released.
So, I guess I am old movie challenged. There are some I have loved, so I’m not all that bad. The African Queen comes to mind, as do many of the Alfred Hitchcock movies and Casablanca and Ben Hur so my taste isn’t totally ruined, I guess.
Anyway, unlike Rebel Without a Cause, I do see why Dr. Zhivago has staying power and is considered a classic. Better acting, MUCH better music (though we were both REALLY tired of Lara’s Theme by the end), great and memorable sets and filming, and a sweeping story set against a dramatic historical backdrop. I don’t know a whole lot about the Russian Revolution, so that is interesting to me.
However, as supposedly one of the best love stories of all time, I have something against it. I just didn’t get what was so great about Lara that he was willing to risk losing everything to be with her. And he did lose everything. He wasn’t even unhappy in his marriage. I’m not sure he married his wife because he was madly in love with her, more that it seemed to be the expected thing and he was the kind of guy who did what was expected of him. But he DID marry her and had a child with her and another on the way. She loved him and was faithful to him and was a good wife. We’re supposed to see him as noble, if a bit naive, and a likable character, and I did like him right up until the point where he cheats on his very pregnant, very faithful wife. Prior to that, Drew and I were speculating that maybe she would die in childbirth and that was how he ended up with Lara, and we kept thinking he seemed too honorable to actually cheat on his wife. But nope. So, I had a hard time being very moved by this grand love affair thing. I kept wanting him to do the right thing. (Unimportant and unnecessary aside: Of course he picks the blond-haired, blue-eyed woman over his beautiful brunette wife. Said bitterly by the brunette writing this post.)
Even in the end, he didn’t even really love Lara, because he didn’t go after her. He just let her go off with that horrid man, and, as far as we the viewers know, didn’t even bother to try to find out whatever happened to her. Blech.
I’m thinking the book is probably better. If I ever get around to reading it, I am sure there is more characterization and detail than the movie is able to provide, and it might make more sense. Then again, I’m not sure I really care all that much. But at least I do see why this movie has staying power. I actually cared enough about the characters and story to be bothered by it enough to write a blog post. And a story that can draw you in to where you actually care about what happens to the people and that you keep thinking about for a long time after reading or watching it makes for a good story, even if you don't really like the people or the choices they make all that much.