Turn Back the Clock
When Harry Met Sally...
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
There are some films that become instant classics the moment they hit the theater. These are the kinds of movies that touch people; movies that perfectly express what is in the hearts and minds of the people in the audience. Such is the case with the film When Harry Met Sally….
The film stars Billy Crystal as Harry Burns and Meg Ryan as Sally Albright. The two meet through a mutual acquaintance and carpool from Chicago to New York. Harry is a dark and cynical person who believes in living spontaneously while optimistic Sally plans out everything from their trip to her food orders. The two are perfect opposites and the trip, although rife with interesting conversation, can be termed as the road trip from Hell.
Five years later, the two find themselves sharing a ride on an airplane. Harry, about to get married, is a tad less cynical and Sally, in the first month of a new relationship, is a bit less naïve. The two still discover that they don’t see eye to eye on things and they part ways after the flight.
Another five years pass and Harry meets Sally once again at a bookstore. They discover that they are in very similar places in their lives - Harry’s wife has left him and Sally has just ended a five year relationship. Finally discovering that they have something in common, the two become friends. But that conversation from the road trip ten years ago lingers in the background - can a man and a woman actually be friends?
Did I mention this was a romantic comedy? I’m fairly certain you can figure out just what happens in this film. It’s getting there that’s the fun part. A film with a screenplay written by Nora Ephron that was directed and produced by Rob Reiner is bound to be quirky, funny and an all around enjoyable experience. In fact, in the 1980s, this film presented folks with some groundbreaking material. This was not your average love story. This was a romantic tale that actually showed you what men and women actually were thinking when they were in a relationship.
Take the road trip conversation about men and women and whether or not they can truly be friends. This was a very revealing conversation. How many women out there believed that they had decent friendships when guys only to discover that the very same guy probably had the idea of having sex with her circulating in the back of his mind. Shocking! What about the scene in Katz’s Deli? This was the most buzzed about scene in the movie as it dashed the hopes of men everywhere and actually caused the film to receive an R rating. In this scene, Sally explains to Harry that, at some time in a woman’s life, she will probably fake an orgasm or two. When Harry doesn’t believe her, Sally proceeds to show him, grabbing the attention of everyone in the deli and prompting on woman (Rob Reiner’s mother) to tell her waiter that she’ll have what Sally was having.
That’s what made this movie so special. It was a true look at the dating scene as seen through the eyes of both men and women. Nothing was sugarcoated. No stone in the dating scene was left unturned.
The cast in this film was terrific. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal had a surprising amount of chemistry and actually made a decent looking couple. Bruno Kirby portrays Jess, Harry’s best…well, only friend. I’m not a big Bruno Kirby fan, but he did a nice job in this film. Carrie Fisher is hysterical as Marie, Sally’s neurotic friend who insists on dating married men until she meets Jess. The fact that Harry and Sally were trying to set each other up with Marie and Jess respectively and yet Marie and Jess end up together adds to the hilarity of the situation and touches on yet another painful part of the dating scene - double dating/blind dating. They just never seem to work.
The most adorable moments of the film are the scenes in which elderly couples are seated on a couch telling an interviewer about how they met. The stories are so sweet and the idea that these folks found a way to make their marriages work for 30, 40 and sometimes upwards of 50 years is inspiring.
The DVD version of When Harry Met Sally… contains some deleted scenes from the film which are not all that interesting. What I did find very interesting were the seven featurettes. The first featurette is aptly titled It All Started Here and features Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron on a couch discussing how they came up with the idea for When Harry Met Sally… The whole thing is done in the same style as the couples motif featured throughout the film. This featurette was very revealing. We discover that the original movie script had a different ending than the one featured in the actual film. The two also discussed how some of the different character quirks came into existence. For instance, Nora Ephron’s food ordering habits inspired those of Sally Albright. Rob Reiner’s experience in the dating world inspired much of the experiences Harry goes through or discusses in the film. The fake orgasm scene was actually inspired by a conversation between Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron early on in the creation of the screenplay. This idea of fake orgasms was as shocking to Rob as it was to the multitude of men watching the film. The idea of having an actual fake orgasm in the scene was Meg Ryan’s idea.
The second featurette, called Stories of Love, discussed the couples scenes scattered throughout the film. Rob Reiner reveals that all of the couple stories heard in this film are absolutely true stories. It is also revealed that Rob Reiner fell in love on the set of this film, having met his future wife, Michelle Singer, while filming. How interesting that the director of a romantic comedy should find himself in a romance of his own while filming.
When Rob Met Billy discusses the long friendship between Rob Reiner and Billy Crystal that began when Billy Crystal was cast on the television series All in the Family. This featurette reveals that Billy Crystal had great freedom when it came to adding to the When Harry Met Sally… script.
Creating Harry features Billy Crystal, Rob Reiner, film critic Thelma Adams, Carrie Fisher, Nora Ephron and film critic Richard Roeper discussing Harry Burns. Nora Ephron reveals that the basis of the Harry character was Rob Reiner himself. It is also revealed that the entire beginning of the museum scene was all adlibbed. Meg Ryan had no idea what was going on but played along and the scene was so good that Rob Reiner decided to keep it in the film.
I Love New York discusses the film’s locale of the Upper West Side in New York City. The filming locale was seen as perfect in that it perfectly expresses how lonely it can be being single in such a large city. What Harry Meeting Sally Meant discusses the meaning of the film while So Can Men and Women Really Be Friends? tackles the road trip question and features the expertise of the cast, critics, director, and writer in addition to that of a professor of sociology and a sex therapist.
When Harry Met Sally… is one of those films that I can watch over and over again and never get tired of. It’s funny, romantic, inspirational and somewhat ageless. Sure, the clothing and hairstyles and scenery have changed over the years, but the basic ideas of the film are timeless. That’s what makes When Harry Met Sally… a classic romantic comedy that stands the test of time.