#158 When Harry Met Sally…

(1989, Rob Reiner)

“Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way”

Valentine’s Day! Unlike last year, where I completely skipped over Valentine’s Day and went ahead and reviewed Inception instead (most romantic movie ever, surely), this year I went out of my way to get an appropriate review up. I turned to one of the most iconic and well-known romantic comedies of all-time, When Harry Met Sally.

Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) first meet when a mutual friend suggests they share a car on their long drive to New York. The drive is awkward, and they argue over the idea that men and women can’t be friends due to “the sex thing” always causing a problem. They go their separate ways and over the years, they bump into each other a few times before eventually becoming friends later on in life. But was Harry right and will their friendship be tested due to “the sex thing”?

I went into When Harry Met Sally seriously expecting to hate it immensely. I’m not a massive fan of romantic comedies, especially romantic comedies that presume certain things about men and women, as if each sex is some kind of autonomous unit or hive mind. When Harry Met Sally fits right into this category most of the time, so I genuinely wasn’t expecting to enjoy it.

And initially, I didn’t. Harry came off as an irritating character, and the dialogue felt like it was trying too hard to be funny while leaning too heavily on stereotypes. Much of the car ride from Chicago from New York seemed to suffer too much from feel-good eighties movie syndrome, where everything felt like a squeaky clean and unrealistic version of reality scored by overly jaunty music.

But then I warmed to it. The thing that immediately began to draw me in was Sally. While I found Billy Crystal as Harry initially irritating, I was annoyed by only one thing with Sally – her need to be ultra-specific about ordering food. But once that quality sank into the background, she became a very likeable character, and I loved how well played she was by Meg Ryan.

The movie also got pretty funny too. It took a while, but eventually I found myself laughing at several scenes as the movie started picking up when the duo’s friendship kicks off. I began to care about the characters and even began to like Harry, a character who I initially found to be obnoxious. It ends up becoming a very charming little movie and I found myself liking it.

That said, the movie is pretty much fluff and this becomes obvious as we get closer to the ending. It’s overly sentimental and never really loses that eighties-style, rose-tinted feel-good vibe even as it becomes more entertaining. The plot isn’t really anything stellar, and says very little. It also can’t decide if it wants to challenge or reinforce the idea of men and women being incapable of being just friends, and it feels a little clumsy as a result.

So basically, it’s a romantic comedy. Admittedly, these movies are never known for setting the world alight, so it’s more of a symptom of its genre than the film being inherently bad. It’s certainly a damn sight more entertaining than more recent Jennifer Aniston vehicles or the likes of What To Expect When You’re Expecting. It doesn’t challenge the genre at all, but it certainly shows that you can make a good film within this template.

In short, it’s a very safe movie. Doesn’t break new ground, doesn’t draw too much attention to itself, starts off very slow and stereotypically, but does prove to be entertaining. Something to curl up with for Valentine’s Day? Sure. And certainly a better choice than Happy Together.

Starring Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher & Bruno Kirby
Written by Nora Ephron
Produced by Rob Reiner, Andrew Scheinmann & Nora Ephron
Music by Marc Shaiman & Henry Connick Jr.
Cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld
Edited by Robert Leighton

Favourite Scene: When Harry and Sally decide to try and pair each other up with their respective best friends, backfiring spectacularly when the friends end up getting together with each other instead.
Scene That Bugged Me: It kept bugging me how quickly people seemed to get married in this universe. Two weeks, three months, what is this?!

Watch it if: You like some charming eighties fluff
Avoid it if: You like a little more realism in your rom-coms (in which case, you’re naïve)

Avoid this review if: You’re disappointed that I didn’t once mention the famous fake orgasm scene


Posted on February 14, 2013, in 1980s, Comedy, Romance and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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