If all romantic comedies were as good as When Harry Met Sally I would not hold the disdain for the genre as I do. However, very few movies – romantic comedy or not – can grasp the level of quality and comedy that When Harry Met Sally has.
Harry Burns and Sally Albright meet right after college when Sally’s friend Amanda gets Sally to agree to let her boyfriend Harry drive to New York with Sally. The two dislike each other because Harry has a very dark view of life that Sally cannot appreciate and Harry cannot understand the rose colored view that Sally has. A few years later the two meet again on a flight and butt heads when Harry again reminds Sally of his initial theory that women and men can’t be friends, he also announces to a very shocked Sally that he is about to be married. They to part ways after departing the plane and don’t meet again until a few years later when Harry is getting divorced and Sally had just broken up with her long term boyfriend. This time Harry and Sally recognize the unique spirit in each other and forge a strong friendship that has all of their friends pushing for the two of them to get together, but Harry and Sally insist that they are the only members of the opposite sex that do not see each other in a sexual way. This of course is eventually what changes, altering their relationship and their lives forever.
The star of this movie for me is the writing of Nora Ephron. These characters so perfectly represent a natural character arch for their genders that you can believe they’ve aged eleven years in the two hour time span that the movie takes place in. I know that When Harry Met Sally was a partnership between the lead actors, Rob Reiner and Ephron but her track record proves that she again and again writes great films that people want to see. Her dialogue is simply so good that you will be quoting lines like “you made a woman meow” for years to come.
As a testimony of Ephron’s great writing is the scene at the deli in this movie. Even if you haven’t seen When Harry Met Sally you have seen the clip somewhere of Sally performing a fake orgasm for Harry at lunch, followed by an older woman telling the waiter “I’ll have what she’s having”.
I also adore the faux documentary sections that are used as a device between sections of the film. In these documentary clips an old couple sits and tells their love story – the story of how they met and got married. What is most fun about these clips is that they are real love stories – just not told by the actual couple. Evidently, Reiner and Ephron wanted to have the stories told by the real couples but as couples do they just couldn’t be concise or stay on topic, and so they decided to take the stories but get actors to tell them. The device is charming and one of the funniest things about the movie.
This is one of my favorite movies and it brought me into awareness that you can have an “odd” pairing of actors, or crazy situations and as long as you have the right actors in the part and the right people behind the scenes it will all work. This movie is timeless because the people making it took every opportunity to take the effort and craft When Harry Met Sally into a complete and perfect movie.
Director: Rob Reiner
Writer: Nora Ephron
Harry Burns: Billy Crystal
Sally Albright: Meg Ryan
Marie: Carrie Fisher
Jess: Bruno Kirby
Marie: All I'm saying is that somewhere out there is the man you are supposed to marry. And if you don't get him first, somebody else will, and you'll have to spend the rest of your life knowing that somebody else is married to your husband.