This is one of my favourite films, it’s hard to write about something you love so much without being...well...annoying...I’ll try not to be annoying! It’s also hard to write about something, when the person responsible for its being has just died.
I first saw When Harry Met Sally as a double feature with The War of the Roses. They were new and the popular film was The War of the Roses, but When Harry Met Sally was without a doubt the better film. I adored it. As soon as I could my hands on the video, I bought a copy, that needed to be replaced by another over the years and of course eventually a DVD. I have seen it more times than I care to think and will always stop and watch it when it is on television, as I did only a few weeks ago.
I love old movies, romantic comedies or as they were called Screwball Comedies. It Happened One Night, His Girl Friday, Bringing Up Baby, Holiday, The Philadelphia Story, The Awful Truth, The Thin Man, The Palm Beach Story...the list goes on. Good romantic comedies today are few and far between. But When Harry Met Sally was the first to get it perfectly right in a long time.
Be warned spoilers ahead...
And really, if you haven’t seen this movie by now, shame on you!!!
It’s the classic story of boy meets girl, girl irritated by boy. Mostly, in this case, because of his belief that boys and girls cannot be friends as sex always gets in the way. They keep bumping into each other at various stages of their lives until they are friends, but then sex gets in the way, and they are no longer friends...until they realise they love each other...sigh...
This sounds clichéd and it is, but it can be done so dreadfully wrong or made sickly sweet...When Harry Met Sally is neither. This works because of Nora Ephron and her clever and witty screenplay.
The boy is Harry, played by Billy Crystal – an odd yet perfect choice. He was not really known for his acting and wasn’t really leading man material. But he was funny, and sweet, and trust me – every person that watches this movie wants Harry! There is something about him...that’s great writing, and maybe the way he says Pecan Pie!!
The girl is Sally, played by Meg Ryan. At the time she was also relatively unknown. She was just right as Miss Just Right. She was a little sickly, a little perfect, a little waspy...possibly even annoying, but somehow, she just kept it on the right side of annoying and became this endearing character ...again great writing.
Their path to love had just enough turns and twists to keep it believable. The reality of the more ‘dramatic’ scenes, anyone who has fallen in and out of love will relate to. Add in the humour – and there is so much good, quality humour – which stops the story from being a soap opera, and the right mix starts to form.
Carrie Fisher (Marie) and Bruno Kirby (Jess) play the best friends of Harry and Sally, and probably have all the sharpest one liners, especially Carrie Fisher in one of her best roles.
Of course, one can’t write about When Harry Met Sally without talking about THAT scene! It was original for sure, and very funny the 1st, 2nd or even 3rd time you see it. But once you have seen the movie as many times as I have, it is a bit passé!
The things I find funny are the little touches, the things you may not notice the first time, or are undershadowed by “I'll have what she’s having”.
I love it when Harry spits grape seeds out of the window in the car towards the beginning of the film, only to roll the window down afterwards. I love the Days of the Week Underpants dialogue... ‘they don’t make Sunday...because of god.’ I love Harry thoughts on Hieroglyphics. I love the wagon wheel coffee table argument. I love Marie’s line, ‘Thin, pretty, big tits, your basic nightmare’, I use that line a lot in real life...not many people get it, but it makes me smile. I love the scene where they are arranging the mat in Sally’s apartment. I love Harry’s answering machine messages to Sally.
I could go on...
There are some clever scenes, like when Marie and Jess are in bed and Harry and Sally ring them both at the same time – perfect timing, well shot, and the line Marie says to Jess, ‘tell me I'll never have to be out there again’.
My favourite scene is when they are singing Surrey with a fringe on top karaoke – it makes me laugh everytime.
Then there is beauty – New York, especially that Autumn scene in Central Park. The vignettes of ‘real life’ couples talking about how they met throughout the film – something that on paper sounds so wrong, but, in fact, is so incredibly beautiful. Added to the wonderful visuals, is the soundtrack – mostly Harry Connick Jnr singing standards; Gershwin, Ellington, Goodman, Kahn, Hart and Rodgers. It Had To Be You defines the movie and borrows from a movie mentioned within the movie, Cascablanca.
There is so much variety within this film, and sewn together seamlessly too. There is not a wrong note about it. The ending has become a classic scene. Just when you think it may get a little too sacharine, a joke works its way in. It always reminds me of the ending to Manhattan - both Woody and Billy running the streets of Manhattan towards their love, looking a little nerdy, getting a little puffed, not knowing the outcome, but giving it their best shot.
Nora Ephron gave it more than her best shot writing and directing When Harry Met Sally - she made a modern classic, a film that still stands the test of time and will be enjoyed and loved by many for years to come.