Friday, March 21, 2008

Meg Ryan & Billy Crystal. Remember them, kids?

When Rob Reiner asked his mom to make a cameo in When Harry Met Sally, he probably didn’t imagine that he’d be immortalizing her in every other cinematic comedy montage for the duration of time. Her adorable response to Meg Ryan’s very public fake orgasm in a deli is so simple yet so hilarious: “I’ll have what she’s having.” There are probably millions of people who would recognize that scene and that line with little to no awareness that there was apparently an entire movie surrounding that moment.

Indeed there was, and a rather good one at that. When Harry Met Sally is the delightful tale of two people (Harry & Sally, natch) who have a chance meeting in the late 70’s, again 5 years later, and then 5 years after that. Not until the third meeting are they ever more than a random byte in the other’s memory, but the friendship they eventually develop becomes a heartfelt and clever character study in life, love, men, women, sex, marriage, karaoke, pecan pie, and the hazzards of Pictionary.

Almost all credit for the film’s enduring success should fall squarely upon the shoulders of stars Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal (the latter of which really needs to get off his ass and host the Oscars again). The way they portray Harry & Sally’s journey from antagonists to acquaintances to friends to lovers is truly something to behold. The only downside to this movie is its stubbornly amoral position on sex and male attitudes. No, I do not want to sleep with every woman I meet, yes I do have plenty of female friends who I regard in completely non-sexual terms, and no, sex is absolutely not a foregone conclusion in a dating relationship.

When Harry Met Sally is something of an enigma. Very much a product of its time, the film is steeped in 80’s era post-feminist Me Decade sexual mores. However, it also manages to become something timeless, a study of friendship and true love as they evolve over the years. It has an overly indulgent sense of itself, yet maintains a whimsical and relatable charm. These positive aspects of the film’s nature are so strong that they have firmly entrenched When Harry Met Sally as a contemporary rom-com classic worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Annie Hall and The Philadelphia Story.

Grade: B+

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