When Harry Met Sally… and I Went Along for the Ride

When Harry Met Sally PosterThis is a goldmine of a film. It’s funny, dramatic, honest, and oh so relatable. If you have ever felt like the only single person in a group, or that life is too complicated to be “just friends” with a member of the opposite sex, then When Harry Met Sally is the movie for you. This film not only explores the uncharted wilderness of relationships, it also brings us back to the wild world of ‘80s shoulder pads and audio cassette tapes. When Harry Met Sally is a classic and I can’t believe it has taken me this long to see it. It has instantly become one of my all-time favourite movies, and I am determined to set a date in my calendar on which to watch it annually.

When Harry (Billy Crystal) met Sally (Meg Ryan), they hated each other. Two people could not have been more different: one was too uptight while the other spat grape seeds out the car window. The only thing they did have in common was the belief that a man and a woman cannot be “just friends.” It took three meetings over ten years before they finally began to challenge this notion, and, lucky for us viewers, the result is dramatic, hilarious, heartwarming, and exasperating. They cry on each other’s shoulders, philosophize about why we say the things we do, and never let the idea of a potential romantic relationship get in their way. One is the chocolate, the other’s the peanut butter, and together they are an absolute treat.

But this delicious combo didn’t come without a little trial and error. The character development from the first scene all the way to the finale is dynamic and fascinating. Every time they come on screen, whether there’s been a gap of five years or five minutes, there is a noticeable maturation in the two characters. Not only do they look older (I was amazed at how young Billy Crystal looks in the first sequence), but they act older and make more mature decisions. They maintain certain character ticks, like Meg Ryan’s flustered folding of her hands on her hips, but otherwise the growth between ages 22 and 32 is brilliant.

And it’s a friendship that developed without Facebook. Imagine that! Some of the best scenes are when they hang out over the phone (gigantic, barely-able-to-fit-in-your-hand phones) and watch TV. Does anyone do that anymore? The tapered pants and the box-screen computers I can live without, but over the phone hang-outs were a thing of beauty.

In order to provide a few breaks from Harry and Sally’s worldly troubles, director Rob Reiner formats the story to include a few special interludes. Every now and then there is a scene of an old couple sitting on a couch telling the story of how they met. These couples have been married for several decades and most of them are practically two halves of the same person. Sometimes one speaks for both, sometimes they finish each other’s sentences, and sometimes they talk over the other, telling the same story in different words. These scenes are a riot and oh so adorable. I found myself looking forward to the interludes as much as Harry and Sally’s story.

When Harry Met Sally has no bling and no bang – it’s just witty dialogue, captivating character development, and real friendship. Harry and Sally create a mutually supportive relationship, with each one acting as either the emotional disaster or psychiatric guru. I laughed out loud, I rewound scenes to watch them again, and I was enthralled by the characters’ abilities to have conversations without speaking a word. I will give When Harry Met Sally a 9/10 because it is not your average chick flick. It is the perfect movie for a lazy afternoon. In fact, I may watch it again tomorrow.

This review can also be found at The Cinema id.

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2 thoughts on “When Harry Met Sally… and I Went Along for the Ride

  1. ” If you have ever felt like the only single person in a group, or that life is too complicated to be “just friends” with a member of the opposite sex, then When Harry Met Sally is the movie for you. ”

    Your line above was spot on! and I really think over the years When Harry Met Sally has become a victim of its own success.
    Watching it again on Blu-ray recently, it’s wasn’t only Barry Sonnenfeld’s beautiful New York visuals that leapt into sharper focus. Keen-eyed, bittersweet and sharp as a tack, director Rob Reiner and screenwriter Nora Ephron’s film is crammed with razor sharp and caustic observations about relationships and divorce. Far from being the comforting chick-flick of popular memory, When Harry Met Sally stands as a defiant equal-opportunity movie, whose verbal sparring recalls ’ the battle-of-the-sexes comedies of Hollywood’s golden age.

    Glad to meet someone else who appreciates this gem.

  2. Pingback: When Harry Met Sally (1989) | The Cinema id

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