WHEN HARRY MET SALLY ... - Golden Oldies On the Big Screen
WHEN HARRY MET SALLY ...
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019
EDITOR’S NOTE: This fondly remembered romantic comedy is the quintessential cinematic examination of the age-old question, ‘Can men and women ever just be friends?’ You can see it in select local theaters, courtesy of Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies, on Sunday, Dec. 1, at 4 p.m., and Tuesday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. My review was published July 21, 1989, in the Deseret News.
Director Rob Reiner, who, with screenwriter Nora Ephron also wrote much of "When Harry Met Sally … ” (though he gets no screen credit for that), seems to pride himself on doing films that are very different from each other.
First there was the hilarious spoof of rock documentaries, "This Is Spinal Tap!," followed by the teen comedy "The Sure Thing," the preadolescence drama "Stand By Me" and his biggest hit, the fantasy-comedy "The Princess Bride."
Now comes Reiner's "When Harry Met Sally … ” — which could be called his Woody Allen movie. Or more correctly, a Woody Allen movie without the angst. Unfortunately, it's also a Woody Allen movie without the complexity of character. But most moviegoers won't mind.
Despite a certain superficiality, "When Harry Met Sally … ” is an adult romantic comedy in a time when we don't get very many, and it has one thing going for it that gives it an enormous boost — it's very funny.
Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal, 'When Harry met Sally ... ’ (1989)
Billy Crystal is "Harry" and Meg Ryan is "Sally," who meet as college graduates driving together to New York City (shades of "The Sure Thing"). It's hate-at-first-sight, as Harry, an opinionated snob, spouts off theories about men and women, as well as his own penchant for promiscuity, then tries to get Sally to go to bed with him. She declines and they part ways.
Several years later they bump into each other on an airplane but this meeting isn't much more successful than the first, and besides, Sally's in love and Harry's about to be married.
Several more years pass and they meet again. This time both are licking their wounds from failed relationships, but they have matured and somehow hit it off to become friends. Just friends.
We know, of course, that they will eventually acknowledge their love for each other, and recognize that romance and friendship should go hand in hand rather than be mutually exclusive, and in the end there is a nice endorsement of both — and of marriage as well.
But the bulk of the film is made up of comic set pieces that are at once very funny and helpful to the narrative. Some, like this movie's most notorious moment during a restaurant scene, get big laughs, but in retrospect don't seem very realistic. Others are both amusing and insightful.
"Harry/Sally" is well cast, with special kudos to the stars — Meg Ryan is a complete delight, with some wonderful little character nuances that make her role utterly real, and Billy Crystal controls his penchant for doing shtick, which has marred some of his other film appearances, and uses to advantage his natural tendency to be a bit overbearing in creating a character who is occasionally obnoxious but not without charm.
Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby, as their respective best friends, are also excellent. Fisher is carving out a nice post-"Star Wars" niche for herself with "best friend" character roles, and she's good at it. Will she evolve into the Eve Arden of the ’90s?
As for the Woody Allen comparisons — fans will see them easily, from the stark black-and-white credits that open the film to the "interview"-testimonials to the old tunes in the background to the ending that parallels "Manhattan."
Call it Rob Reiner's "Annie Hall." But it's funny in its own right and should appeal to a broad audience looking for something other than the slam-bang special effects dominating theater screens at the moment.
"When Harry Met Sally. … ” is rated R for profanity, though there isn't really a lot, and vulgarity as the characters talk frankly about sex.