Friday, September 16, 2005
When Harry & Sally & I Met
If it were not for the existence of It's a Wonderful Life, the film When Harry Met Sally... would top my list of all-time favorites. Harry and Sally and I first met in 1989 at the UA Sheapshead Bay theater in Brooklyn in 1989, Since then, have viewed the film at least an additional 40 times, everywhere and anywhere I could. I have often said that everything you need to know about relationships you can learn from watching When Harry Met Sally... The film is the best collaboration of acting, writing and directing ever on screen. It's Meg Ryan's finest moment. (Her nuanced performance as Sally Albright, every turn of her head, or widening of her eyes, doesn't even seem like acting, she IS the character.) Billy Crystal has never been better than he is as Harry Burns, a less-than-optimistic person who we watch mature on screen, not in some sort of artificial movie way, but slowly, through experiences and rethinking (you know, the way humans do it). Nora Ephron has never been able to match the words she put in these characters' mouths (although she has clearly tried, again and again, most notably with Sleepless In Seattle). And in the hands of director Rob Reiner (who drew on his own life experiences to infuse this story) the film achieves a level of humanity seldom seen on screen. It's real. You like these characters. You want to know their story. The film leaves us with so many -- so many -- indelible images. Sure, everybody remembers the famous Deli scene, but images of Harry and Sally saying goodbye (for the first time) under the Washington Square Arch in NY, or dancing for the first time (cheek to cheek) at a New Year's Eve party, or picking out a Christmas tree on a NY sidewalk outside a cobblestone church and carrying it home as a light snow falls, or Harry running through the empty streets on New Year's Eve to find Sally and how their eyes meet when he does finally does, are just a handful of unforgettable scenes that this magnificent film gives us. And the dialogue...pure magic, as if the wisest of sages imbued his/her spirit into them. From Harry: "A man and a woman can never be friends. The sex part always gets in the way." From Sally: "Harry, you have to realize that you simply can't express every emotion you have every time you have them. There is a time and place for things." From Sally: "So, you are saying I should marry someone just in case he's about to die?" Her friend: "At least you could say you were married." I could go on and on. In fact, I could put the entire script down here. This is a truly a rare film. One of a kind. It not only makes us laugh; it makes us think; it makes us fee; it connects to us. We see ourselves in the subtle facial expressions of Sally and the nervous joking nature of Harry. We recognize the need for friends as we view the relationship with theirs (Jess and Marie, two wonderful performances by Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher). We know what it's like to love and doubt and want and fear wanting. The film is not a comedy. It's not a drama. It's simply life. There are many roads to finding a life partner. When Harry Met Sally... shows us a few. It makes us trust in the nature of relationships because it doesn't trivialize them. It nurtures them along and lets us watch as they unfold, not as a movie unfolds, but as life unfolds.