Nora Ephron was considered one of the best screenwriters in Hollywood. She was Woody Allen's feminine counterpart. Her dialogue was sharp, witty and natural. You hated the fact that when you were in a situation similar to the characters in her films, the words you would say were never as good as what she would write. Her films included Sleepless in Seattle, Silkwood, Heartburn, You’ve Got Mail, and Julie and Julia. Her greatest writing achievement came back in 1989, with Rob Reiner’s production of When Harry Met Sally…. It’s the story of a couple who try to navigate their way through friendship without ruining it with sex. It’s a film that speaks volumes about men and women today, as it did back in 1989. It is fresh, funny and insightful. Sadly, Nora Ephron passed away June 26th from Leukemia. Those of us who like movies as much as I do will definitely miss her talent for us to identify with the characters she writes about.
In honor of her passing, I thought it would be good to look back at her best film, When Harry Met Sally…. The story begins with Sally (Meg Ryan) who's moving to New York City to become a writer. To help with the driving, she offers a rider to Harry (Billy Crystal), the boyfriend of someone she knows. As they drive from Chicago to New York, the two discuss their relationships, movies, and Sally’s unusual ability at ordering at restaurants. Things are ok until Harry makes a comment that Sally interprets as a come-on. From this, Harry makes a statement that will resonate through the rest of the film “men and women cannot be friends, because men will always want to have sex.”
The film jumps fives year later when Harry and Sally meet again, this time on a plane. Both are in a relationship, Harry is actually getting married. And again, Harry’s statement from the past is brought up and Sally still feels animosity toward Harry. Jumping again another 5 years, Harry and Sally run into each other at a bookstore. Both of their relationships have recently ended, so the two have developed a bond. They have dinner, call each other at night before they fall asleep and take walks in Central Park; but they're only friends. Harry tends to sleep around, while Sally isn’t able to have a relationship outside of their friendship. They set up each other with their best friends (Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby) but the best friends are attracted to each other and they start dating.
Things are going well until Harry run’s into his ex and Sally’s ex tells her he’s getting married. It bothers both of them to the point that they cross the friendship boundaries and they end up sleeping together. Both feel it was a mistake, but Harry pretty much dismisses it as nothing. This drives a significant wedge into the relationship. The remainder of the film forces our couple to re-evaluate their values in regards to their relationship.
If there's a film that's similar to the style of When Harry Met Sally…, that film would have to be Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. Both films have that sharp wit, the neurotic characters dealing with relationships and New York City as an amazing backdrop to the story. I love the story, because we can all relate to it. Harry and Sally are two normal people just trying to get through the obstacles of love in the big city. And what a beautiful city it is!
Barry Sonnenfeld’s cinematography is gorgeous. The colors of the leaves in Central Park are amazing, Washington Square looks amazing, NYC should have gotten a credit over the title of the film, it’s that important of a character. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are sensational. They both come off as utterly charming characters, but both have that vulnerability that shine in the second half of the film. Rob Reiner’s direction is flawless and the story moves at a good pace. Plus to tableaus between the time changes have real life older couples talking about their relationships. This really gives the film a Woody Allen feel to it.
In the end the star of the film has got to be Nora Ephron’s screenplay. It is a gem. The woman had a terrific ear for dialogue and she brought it with this film. I still bust a gut whenever I hear Harry talk about ‘pecan pie’ in his strange voice, or ‘baby fish mouth’ during charades. She did get an Oscar nomination for this film, which it truly deserved. After this film, she started directing her own films. Her last film was Julie and Julia with Meryl Streep, but she left behind so many others. Any of them is definitely worth your viewing. But the crown jewel for the Queen of Romantic Comedies is definitely When Harry Met Sally…
When Harry Met Sally… is presented in a 1080p, MPEG-4 video codec transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The transfer of this film is wonderful. The film actually goes through different seasons in NYC and the colors are amazing. The ‘Fall in Central Park’ scene is absolutely stunning. The warm colors of the leaves in the background as Harry and Sally walk are amazing. This is one of my favorite scenes in any film, and it makes me want to head to the Big Apple in the fall. Skin tones are very natural. Textures of clothing are good. Minimal grain is noticed. Black levels are very good with no distortion decrease in imagery. They should use this transfer to entice people to come to New York City.
The DTS-HD 5.1 is pretty sparse. Most of the sound on the soundtrack is delivered from the front channels, while the rear speakers are only there to enhance the great musical score. Dialogue is crystal clear. There's some directional effects with the front right and left speakers when the screen splits in two, such as the scene when they are watching Casablanca in each of their apartments. Otherwise, it’s straight forward as a serviceable audio transfer.
When Harry Met Sally… has the most extras I have ever seen on one disc. A 37 minute documentary, 7 featurettes, 2 audio commentaries (both are fantastic), 7 excellent deleted scenes. WOW.
- It All Started Like This
- Stories of Love
- When Rob Met Billy
- Creating Harry
- I Love NY
- What Harry Meeting Sally Meant
- So Can Men and Women Really Be Friends
When Harry Met Sally… is a classic for me. Excellent cast, excellent direction by Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron’s brilliant screenplay. The dialogue is as fresh today as it was back in 1989. I just cannot say enough about this movie. It is that good. The video transfer is so good, I’m ready to pack my bags and move to NYC. The audio transfer is OK but the movie has a ton of extras that really enhance the film. It’s wonderful listening to Nora Ephron talking about this film in the commentary and the features. She speaks about When Harry Met Sally… like it's her best friend. Sadly, with her passing, it seems like we all lost a best friend. Rest in peace, Nora.