When Harry Met Sally by Nora Ephron
Another version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:
- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEVa4_CsRStSBBDo4uJWT8BSWtTTn0N1E and http://realini.blogspot.ro/
This is one of the best comedies ever.
I am surprised to find that it was only nominated for an Academy Award, for Best Screenplay and it only won the BAFTA for Nora Ephron’s masterpiece.
But there have been so many mistakes:
Double Indemnity, another classis, if of the film noire genre, was nominated for seven Oscars and won none.
It was a year when the studio promoted a movie that is obscure now and this provoked the stupendous Billy Wilder to:
- Take his revenge when his rival got up to make his way to the stage to accept the award for best picture: Wilder, sitting on the aisle, stuck out his foot and tripped him
- After the ceremony he shouted: "What the hell does the Academy Award mean, for God's sake? After all – Luise Rainer won it two times. Luise Rainer!"
In When Harry Met Sally the story is perfect, with sophisticated and rude humor, psychological insight, wonderful performances from Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, the latter in top form, his best role if you ask me.
Harry is involved with a friend of Sally and he takes a ride in the car with this beautiful, blonde girl, who has some strange habits.
Just as the car moves on, after a lot of kisses, Harry takes out a bunch of grapes, offers the driver and starts spitting seeds…
- Only the car window is closed, so he is spitting inside the car- maybe gross, but there’s a first laugh
Harry and Sally do not seem to get along; on the contrary they are opposites that do not attract, but fight, at least to begin with.
Casablanca is brought in the conversation and Sally has an outrageous take, preferring Victor Laszlo to Rick.
Humphrey Bogart- the Brad Pitt and George Clooney of his time- would have been refused by this eccentric young woman, who says that she would rather be the First Lady of Czechoslovakia than with a bartender in Casablanca.
On a side note, I have read in the wonderful Adventures in the Screen Trade by the wondrous William Goldman that Bogart was…a whiner: why did that guy take that role, oh, why didn’t they give it to me and so on…
Sally is odd in her choice of food and especially the way it has to be cooked, presented and ordered on her plate.
Everywhere they go, she has to have everything on the side, divided, extracted, added, making life miserable for all involved, chefs, waiters and friend Harry, who says at one moment that he likes her in spite of all this kerfuffle she provokes in restaurants, on planes…
Harry tells Sally early on that she is attractive, but she is outraged, because her friend is his girlfriend and she takes this as a pass at her.
Harry Burns has a theory that a platonic friendship is impossible between a man and a woman, even if she rejects his desires to become intimate…
- This sexual attraction will still be there, no matter what
He has other preposterous statements that can be seen as hilarious- that is how I saw them- when he talks about the moments after sex.
This is a theme that Seinfeld approached and he could have been inspired by this film, which I think opened before the comedy series.
After they have been intimate, Harry maintains that there is only one thing, one question on the mind of the male (chauvinist p**?)
- How long do I have to hold her before I can get out of here?
- Is thirty seconds enough??
The sex jokes have reminded me about reading in 50 Psychology Classics about the huge difference between the male and female perspectives on sex.
It was astonishing for me to see that the women think so much less about sex than we do and even if that was to be anticipated, I thought the difference so enormous that I was flabbergasted and it overwhelmed me.
I will not say how the relationship progresses- there are ups and downs as it is only natural- but it is dazzling.
The film is effervescent, sparkling with wit and good humor, Billy Crystal is restrained and excellent, Meg Ryan is also very good.
Her simulation of an orgasm, in public, among diners has entered cinema history and it is now “legendary”.
What a joy to watch!!