Tuesday, November 15, 2011

When Harry Met Sally...

I'll have what she's having. Not until a year ago, I thought this memorable quote was shouted by someone who was serving some cheesy punchline. (I'll have what SHE'S having!) Not until a year ago, I learned this quote was said to prolong the timeless joke of faking orgasms. And lastly, not until a year ago did I first watch what would be my all-time favorite film. Ever.

That's quite a statement coming from me, a vast admirer of movies. It's your basic romantic-comedy, upon hearing the plot without actually watching it: boy meets girl, they develop a relationship that would blossom to romance, major conflict in their relationship, conflict resolved, and they live happily ever after. It may sound simple, but it is, remarkably, far from it. What makes me say remarkable is that...well, it is. In some wondrous way, maybe magic, the collaborative minds of Rob Reiner (director) and Nora Ephron (writer) created a meaningful, funny, romantic, insightful classic.
Sure, the insight relates to the art of relationships rather than academia, but its relevance to the lives of real people is what makes it entertaining. People want to see movies where they learn something they already know, such as the fake orgasm. Women know they do it, men don't think their woman is faking with them. Now, it's considered cliche... (who would even dare try to put that joke in their movie and get away with it?) but for the 1989 classic, it is just that (classic).

Let's get into the substance of the great film. Its main characters are Harry Burns (played marvelously by Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (played wonderfully by Meg Ryan, looking as adorable as ever). Harry is a cynic, who always has some narrow-minded opinion on the smallest of things; Sally is a bright, cheerful woman, who always objects to Harry's pessimistic provinciality and tries to prove him wrong and therefore assure herself that he's wrong. The two meet when they drive to New York together, and on the ride there, Harry prudently states that they can never be friends because men and women cannot be friends. The reason for that (you should know this) is, no matter what, there is always a chance of sex getting in the way. I love this scene because, like every scene in the movie, Harry and Sally are going back and forth with their quick responses; they have a simple yet interesting conversation in the movie, like any two people in the real-world would. It projects such a warm, comfortable aura about the entire film. You can watch it any time of day, whether you're on the brink of falling asleep (as I am at this very moment) or busy with some other task. It just absorbs you in a way that doesn't distract or consume you. If that makes sense.

When the pair stops by at a diner, Harry accuses Sally of never having had great sex, which Sally vehemently denies because she doesn't want to live in a world where some contemptuous jerk is right. (Further defines their relationship, as this is how they respond to one another throughout the film.) Still at the diner, Harry orders a simple meal known as "a number 4". Sally on the other hand, orders her dessert in a much more complex manner: "I'd like the pie heated and I don't want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side, and I'd like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it, if not then no ice cream just whipped cream but only if it's real; if it's out of the can then nothing". I just had to include that one bit from the movie, it was just so amusing. Then, Harry brilliantly states how men and women can never be friends. And it's absolutely true! I know from experience, myself; eventually, either I start to develop feelings, or he's just inevitable, in such a supernatural way. Well, actually natural way. Men and women are attracted to one another, even if one of them is generally unattractive (Harry: You pretty much want to nail 'em too.)

Five years later, Harry and Sally meet again, in an airport, where Sally is kissing her boyfriend, Joe, goodbye. (Another factor I love is how Harry and Sally actually have time to fall in love, unlike typical romantic comedies out now. In those movies, the audience is to believe that two characters fall in love in the course of about a month. That's not the way it should be. Here's your example, romantic comedies of 2012.) Here, the so-true moment of forgetting the name of your best friend in college or what someone you met five years ago is doing now, job-wise, is displayed. (Note: there are many so-true moments in this film. Yes, I will mention each and every one of them. If I fail to do that, I'm only human.) Once Harry recognizes Sally on the plane, after she made her usual complication of a simple order of a drink, the two catch up on things: Harry is married to Helen, while we already know Sally is in a serious relationship with Joe. How, pray tell, do we know it's serious? Well, as Harry explains it, he took her to the airport, and that is definitely a six month-plus task to carry out. What guy who you just slept with would take you to the airport the next day? Anyway, I have to say, the character of Harry (who I strongly hope is truly out there for me to snatch) may be cynical and sees-the-cup-half-empty, but at least he has a fathomable hold of reality. (Fathomable?) There's nothing wrong with a little cynicism people, not everything has to be a Christmas elf. Nor do they have to be plain assholes. Where was I going with this...? Either way, Harry is a wonderfully pessimistic character, which will be more clearly shown throughout the movie. You'll see.

Having read over what I already wrote, I've come to a decision. No votes will be made on the issue either. (Like you even would. I'm so insecure. Moving on.) I've decided not to reveal every little thing about the movie. While it is a wonderful film, probably the best I've seen, I don't want to spoil it for you. Even if you watched it, I doubt you would want to read the script of the movie here. You know what happens, you've seen and enjoyed it. And for those who haven't seen it, I want you to be delightfully surprised by just how great it is. I will not erase what I have written above because, well, it's already typed up. With that being said, allow me to continue, without telling you exactly what happens.

When Harry Met Sally... is a genuine cinematic gem. Definitely the greatest romantic comedy ever made, and quite possibly the best movie. (Then again, one might enjoy Gigli or Bounty Hunter...I'm not judging, but bad taste. Oh, I judged anyway. Terrible taste.) This movie is truly a marvelous marvelous creation, focusing on the small yet crucially important components of relationships, and life. From the honest and intimate conversations between Harry and Sally to...well, to their incredibly touching climax when know...and live happily ever after. Yet, that cheesy ending isn't exactly set in stone, as it typically is in these types of films. They simply kiss and undergo their own, adorable interview. Their interview follows many other sweet interviews of elderly couples, who have ended up together in unconventional ways. (By unconventional, I mean not your everyday boy-meets-girl-and-falls-for-her-instantly gimmick. Once again, this movie is pure perfection.)

Similar to Woody Allen films and other lovable Rob Reiner films, When Harry Met Sally... is all about the dialogue, and the warm sensation it gives off. The whole film centers around the relationship of Harry and Sally, two seemingly ordinary people (yet two of the finest character in the history of cinema), over the believable course of more than ten years. From watching Casablanca together late at night, over the phone, to casually discussing the topic of one another's sex lives in public places. Harry Burns and Sally Albright stand as the ideal cinematic couple... (move over Rose and Jack!) in an ideal romantic film. When Harry Met Sally... is truly, utterly, and completely the unsurpassed romantic comedy, nay movie, of our time. Get used to it.


  1. This is a wonderful piece of writing which I'm sure I'll revisit many times in the future.
    I've loved When Harry Met Sally (and Meg Ryan) longer than I care to remember so it's always nice to meet a new fan, and doesn't it show how great WHMS is that it's still winning new admirers over twenty years after its release.
    I think you're right that it was magic that brought Rob, Norah, Meg and Billy together to create this gem. It's like lightning in a bottle and is something nobody can predict.
    Thanks again for this post and yes, I am a man of my word and I'm officially following this site now.
    To tell you the truth I would have followed you anyway because you're writing is that damn' good.
    I'll see you around.

    1. Happy New Year and thank you for an entertaining year of writing in 2012.

  2. "When Harry Met Sally... is truly, utterly, and completely the unsurpassed romantic comedy, nay movie, of our time. Get used to it."
    Do you still stand by this statement?