Few movies can boast a screenplay in which nearly every line could be a best line. I consider Elizabethtown and Airplane! to be such films, but perhaps the best example is the immortal rom com When Harry Met Sally…. Born from the experiences and insights of Nora Ephron and director Rob Reiner, as well as the comedy of Billy Crystal, the entire film is essentially a treatise on dating in the ‘80s, which is surprisingly as entertaining now as it was when it earned a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination.
Quirk is not always easy to pull off. At times, it becomes uncomfortable or weird rather than endearing, and even when it tows the line, some realism is often lost amid the characters’ eccentricities. When Harry Met Sally… possesses the best balance I’ve seen between charming idiosyncrasy and realistic character development. Harry especially may be a caricature of smug male self-confidence, but who hasn’t encountered the “high maintenance” girl or a romance that didn’t necessarily start on the best of terms?
Meg Ryan is gorgeous as Sally, the kind of woman to request every meal just so. (I’ve been a cashier so I know those people are out there.) Ryan has, or had, a unique talent for amazing chemistry with her male co-stars: as great as she was with Tom Hanks (and to a lesser extent Dennis Quaid, Kevin Kline, and Hugh Jackman), her first memorable cinematic connection was with Billy Crystal. Crystal’s Harry is irresistible, he thinks, and manages to make spitting grape seeds hilarious. So much of the film’s humor relies on Crystal’s delivery (the “pepper in my paprikash” exchange, his depressed moaning in bed, his silly attempts at karaoke) that no one could have taken his place. Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher also fill strong supporting roles as the titular couple’s friends.
Famous scenes and lines abound, not least of which is the restaurant scene concluded by a laugh-out-loud one-liner from Rob Reiner’s own mother. Another interesting element is the brief true-story interviews with happily married couples throughout the film, who serve as the hopeful reminder of a relationship’s potential success and where Harry and Sally may and do end up.
While there’s some language and much frank sexual dialogue, When Harry Met Sally… is tame by today’s standards, and as lecherous as Harry is, the film does imply that sex can ruin a relationship just as much as deepen it. Harry’s speech at the end is one of the best cinematic professions of love, capping off an endlessly watchable standard for the genre.Best lines (not the obvious): (Harry, leaving a voice message for Sally) “The fact that you’re not answering leads me to believe you’re either (a) not at home, (b) home but don’t want to talk to me, or (c) home, desperately want to talk to me, but trapped under something heavy. If it’s either (a) or (c), please call me back.” (Sally, to Harry) “It’s amazing. You look like a normal person, but actually you are the angel of death.” (Harry’s friend Jess) “You made a woman meow?” VC’s best line: (Sally’s friend Marie, when told a fact she ignores) “You’re right, you’re right. I know you’re right.” Rank: 57 out of 60
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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