Why I Now Appreciate ‘When Harry Met Sally’

When people start to rattle off the great romantic comedies, When Harry Met Sally tends to be mentioned a little too often. Even the title feels overexposed. I remember seeing it as a young teenager, but at the time, it didn’t make much of an impression. I’m sad that it took Carrie Fisher’s untimely death for me to re-examine this film, but I am glad I watched it again.

If you have been living under a rock and have never seen When Harry Met Sally, the film follows Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan), two college graduates who road trip to New York to begin their post-collegiate lives. During the ride, they bond and bicker and ultimately leave each other behind. However, their story isn’t over. They keep randomly running into one another at different stages of their lives. Does this mean their destined to be together? I mean it’s a romantic comedy…so what do you think?

200-15.gif
I agree. Sheldon’s not a very sexy name. 

Here are just a few reasons I now appreciate When Harry Met Sally:

Hello, the Cast!

Billy Crystal is not your standard leading man, at least not by today’s standards. However, fitting with my blog, he does fit the mold of a William Powell or a Humphrey Bogart. He’s not a model. He’s a real person. And he’s HILARIOUS. Seriously, he knocks all the one liners out of the park! Is he believable as a 20 year-old college student at the beginning? Of course not, but who cares about that?

200-3.gif
One of the most AWKWARD gifs you will ever see

Meg Ryan was just twenty-eight when she made this film and although she had made films before this and starred in the long-running soap As the World Turns, the role of Sally Albright was very much her breakout performance, the film that made her into the A-list actress she became. She shines brightly – she’s cute, she’s funny, she’s relatable (except for the fact that she’s drop dead gorgeous)!

200w.gif
She doesn’t look that sorry…just saying!

And then, of course, there is Carrie Fisher, aka Goddess Divine. Although she only has a supporting role in this film, she leaves an indelible mark. In her early thirties at the time, Fisher’s snappy retorts and natural comic timing are a snapshot of her enormous talent!

tumblr_m6afsmKVZ51qbfa4xo1_5001.gif
#REALTALK

The Ridiculously Witty, Touching, HILARIOUS Script

This is what I was most surprised with during my re-watch. The film was written by the great, late Nora Ephron. Though the film’s concept was conceived by director Rob Reiner, Ephron’s personality was all over the script. It was composed of Reiner’s relationship history and Ephron’s and actually has a Before Sunrise-type vibe. It’s all talking, or as my mother would say, “talky, talky, shit, shit, shit.”

The film tries to answer the question: Can men and women be friends without sex becoming a factor? I’ve had several conversations with various people on the subject. Younger people, my peers, tend to say that men and women can absolutely be friends while older people have told me the opposite. Is it age? Experience? That, I cannot say. But, the film does a good job of showing the complexity in maintaining a non-romantic relationship with someone you’re attracted to.

200-12.gif
I want to slip this one into normal convos.

The film is also about how opposites attract. I think the conversation is especially relevant in the age of dating apps and the like. We all swipe through with a list of things we want for our potential partner: non smoker, nerdy, not a douchebag, perhaps a certain height or attractiveness level, where they went to school, what their job is…the list goes on. But, in actuality, in getting to know a person, you’re never going to find someone who fits that list one-hundred percent. Sally is type-A, Harry is go with the flow. Harry is a pessimist, Sally is an optimist. It seems that their attraction is built from their ability to argue with each other in a healthy way.

I love that when these characters do eventually see that they should be together, you understand why. My biggest pet peeve in romantic comedies is when the characters are given no reason to like each other beyond, “We’re both extremely attractive people. We should get together!”

200-7.gif
A wig makes you look twenty years younger. It’s been medically proven. 

The Direction

The prolific Rob Reiner directed this romantic gem. If you’re unfamiliar, he’s also behind such classics as Stand By Me, This Is Spinal Tap, and The Princess Bride. Again, the list GOES ON. The idea for this film came from Reiner’s own life. He had just gotten divorced and was trying to jump back into the dating world. Once he met with Ephron, they came up with the “he said, she said” dynamic and the script was born.

First and foremost, When Harry Met Sally is a funny movie. You can’t watch it and not crack up. However, its brilliance comes in the more serious moments where Reiner and Ephron tapped into something real and genuine.

megryan_crying.gif
#HAIRGOALS, amiright?

The Big-O Scene

If you know close to nothing about this film, chances are this is the one thing you’ve heard about. Meg Ryan faking an orgasm in Katz’s deli is hands down the most famous scene in the film. The scene was a true collaboration with Meg suggesting she actually fake it as opposed to just talk about it and with Billy suggesting a customer say directly after, “I’ll have what she’s having.” Both worked and Reiner gave the line to his mother, Estelle Reiner, who was visiting set that day.

200-8.gif
In a real restaurant, wouldn’t she be thrown out? 
200-9.gif
The most over-quoted line in film history

The Old-School Soundtrack

Reiner wanted a classic soundtrack, kinda Frank Sinatra standards-type stuff. Harry Connick Jr. was in his early twenties. Somehow Reiner heard him and hired him to re-vamp some old school standards. In that way, it was a bridge between the past and the modern. While I still love Frank Sinatra and Fred Astaire’s renditions more, I enjoy the music, especially Harry’s rendition of the Gershwin classic that Astaire and Rogers popularized, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.”

It’s witty, relevant and truly touching!

I’ll be honest. I watched this on NYE, partially to honor Carrie Fisher, partially because the film ends on New Years Eve. I realized this film is more than its hyped up reputation. There’s a reason it’s revered – it’s because it’s great! Even though its last scene is a bit cheesy, you can’t help but eat it up.

200-16.gif
#NEWYEARSGOALS

In regards to Carrie Fisher, I was deeply saddened by her untimely death. Although this film is but a blip in her career, a sheer sliver of her full talent, it makes me happy to know she lives on through this film and others that she either acted in or wrote.

rs_500x199-151020171534-Carrie_Fisher-youre_braver_than_i_thought.gif
RIP Carrie Fisher.

Vintage trailer below:

 

When Harry Met Sally Gifs property of Columbia Pictures.

Star Wars gif property of Disney.

 

 

 

Why I Now Appreciate “The American President”

On my birthday, while in line for a ride for at Disney’s California Adventure theme park, I stopped mid-sentence and said to my friend, “I know this song. Why do I know this song?” That song was the main theme from the 1995 Rob Reiner film, The American President.

Back in the summer of 2012, I discovered Aaron Sorkin through his HBO series The Newsroom. I loved it because its fast paced dialogue and romantic antics reminded me of the screwball comedies I grew up watching. Of course, when I mentioned the show to my brother, he was like, “Well, yeah. That’s Sorkin.”

I binged The West Wing, Sports Night, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip…if it was Sorkin, I watched it! And during this Sorkin binge, I discovered that another one of my mom’s favorite movies was actually written by him too. The American President was played several times during my childhood and since my brother and dad routinely made fun of it (mostly cause my mom watched it SO many times), I never thought it was high art.

A few years ago, I re-watched it and realized just how brilliant it was. It’s very much a prototype for what Sorkin’s signature style became and I fell in love with it. It has everything I love – idealism and fun and great one liners!

If you’ve never seen The American President, the Rob Reiner film follows POTUS, Andrew Shepard (Michael Douglas) who develops a crush on the new head of the environmental lobby, Sydney Ellen-Wade (Annette Bening). The crush becomes a relationship, but of course politics complicate everything. Couple that with the fact that Bob Rumson (Richard Dreyfuss), Shepard’s nemesis, decides to run for President….craziness ensues!

Here are just a few reasons you should watch it ASAP.

The Cast

tumblr_o6sgx7GgE01qf3bujo8_400.gif

Okay, so main cast first. Michael Douglas plays President Andrew Shepard. He’s at his best because he’s got Sorkin’s dialogue coming out of his mouth.

Annette Bening as Sydney Ellen Wade is also fantastic. She delivers some of the best lines – most notably one my mom still can’t quote correctly about her sister having to live with regret. Ha.

tumblr_o6sgx7GgE01qf3bujo2_400.gif

In addition, the film’s supporting cast is filled with wonderful characters actors. Martin Sheen plays the President’s right hand man, which is ironic considering he plays the POTUS in Sorkin’s The West Wing a few years later. It’s almost as if he was auditioning.

tumblr_o58c6yoK3Z1tiqwkoo1_r1_250.gif

Scandal fans will be excited to see Joshua Malina – David Rosen in Scandal – as David, Sydney’s co-worker. We can’t tell if he has a crush on her or what…not that it matters. Sydney is obviously into the President.

tumblr_mkrtrqDT321s54iyyo2_400.gif

Also, people seem to forget Michael J. Fox. Little trivia: Fox had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s before the film started shooting and he was afraid that during a routine physical before the movie, they’d find it with the small shaking in his hands. He’s in one of my favorite moments of the film.

we lost jarrett.gif

Jon Mahoney is also wonderful as Leo Solomon, Sydney’s boss. I know him as Diane Court’s father in Say Anything. Once again, he proves that he’s a very underrated character actor.

b7d6857d03bfe92b3286ecb60d508625.jpg

Last, but certainly not least, Richard Dreyfuss plays Senator Bob Rumson, Douglas’s opponent. He’s revels in his character’s evilness.

4906-594.gif

The Dialogue…

Sorkin is a master of dialogue and witty banter. The American President is filled with great lines. Probably my favorite is POTUS telling Sydney, “Let’s take him outside and beat the shit out of him” right after she insulted him not knowing he was in the room.

When Sydney is going through security at the White House, she tells the guard that she’s savoring the Capra-esque qualities which is funny because Frank Capra III was the 1st Asst Director. The dialogue is very Capra-esque which is probably one of the reasons the film struck a cord with me.

tumblr_o58c6yoK3Z1tiqwkoo2_r2_250.gif

The Music

The score of this film composed by Marc Shaiman is sweeping and romantic. You can’t not feel patriotic and idealistic just listening to it.

 

It’s Idealistic

Yeah, does this film really show what the White House is like? Um, no. Instead, Sorkin shows us the world that could be. This film is proof that old-style idealism and romance are still alive and well…or at least, they were in 1995. What made me fall in love with The Newsroom was that it took screwball romantic comedy antics and married it to well meaning values. The same is true in The American President. The ideals the film perpetuates are real and still resonate, even twenty-one years later. But, hey, I mean, it’s also just plain romantic…

tumblr_o6sgx7GgE01qf3bujo4_400.gif

As it turns out this film falls in the same category as Working Girl – I owe my mother another apology. Maybe her taste isn’t so bad after all. 😉

If you’re a Sorkin fan, this film is obviously a must see. But, I will say, if you’re not a Sorkin fan, this film might just make you one. What can I say? I’m an optimist.

tumblr_lg02jeA6nt1qcpnc9o1_r1_500.gif

Vintage trailer below: