REVIEW: “When Harry Met Sally…”

HARRY POSTERBoth Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan will always be remembered for their individual strings of popular movies in the late 1980s and through the 1990s. While neither has held onto their box office popularity past that point, no one can deny what a great run they had. And during that time arguably their best film was a picture they did together, the 1989 romantic comedy “When Harry Met Sally…”.

I’ve watched this film several times but not since my VHS copy became extinct. Now I’ve revisited the movie and what a treat to learn that it still holds up after almost 15 years. It still features that same sharp wit. It still has those laugh-out-loud moments. It still has the perfect amount of romance. But most importantly, it still features two main characters that we connect with and genuinely care about.

It’s the story of Harry Burns (Crystal) and Sally Albright (Ryan) and the unique winding road their relationship travels. They first meet in 1977, both fresh out of school at the University of Chicago. Harry is dating a friend of Sally’s who encourages the two to share a drive back to New York City. During the drive the two share a number of conversations particularly their drastically different philosophies on relationships. After some hearty disagreements, they finally arrive in New York City and gladly go their separate ways.

The film then jumps ahead 5 years to when Harry and Sally bump into each other at the airport. Both are at different stages in their lives and their attitudes about relationships have slightly evolved. Later we jump ahead another 5 years to another chance meeting. Again their situations have changed and the evolution of their relationship philosophies is obvious. Harry is still witty and neurotic but he isn’t as cocky and sure of himself as he is when we first meet him. Sally starts off as peppy and exuberant but later we find her more credulous and naive. This is the heart of the film – watching these two people with seemingly warped views of relationships transform under the weight of reality. And all while the one true path to happiness may be right under their noses.


For me there are many reasons this film works so well. First is Nora Ephron’s Oscar nominated screenplay. It’s smart, razor sharp, and unflinching in its grounded portrayal of its characters. Much of that is thanks to contributions made by Crystal and Ryan but overall this is Ephron’s baby and she nails it. Credit also goes to director Rob Reiner. This was during a period when Reiner was making better films and much of it was taken from his life as a divorced single man. It’s solid filmmaking, something that can’t be said about many of his more recent movies.

And then there are the performances from Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. It would have all fallen apart if the characters weren’t so easy to connect with. Crystal and Ryan draw us in the first moments we meet them. There is also a wonderful and charming chemistry between the two. You can’t help but get caught up in Crystal’s dry humor and Ryan’s infectious smile. They are so believable and you never doubt the authenticity of these two people. They are perfectly cast.

At times “When Harry Met Sally…” seems to draw out its one big question (will Harry and Sally ever get together?) longer than necessary and some people may get bogged down in the numerous back-and-forths between the different characters. But for me after all these years it’s still a fine romantic comedy that knows how to handle its characters and their situations. It’s a story of two lost souls who put their faith in their own wrong views of love while a much easier answer may be right before them. That’s a story I can get into.


Oscar – The morning after…

Well it has come and gone. The 2012 Oscars seemed to get here in a hurry and be done just as quick. As usual for the more recent Oscars, there were few surprises. Most of the “Big 6” went as I predicted and the only real surprises were with the technical awards. But overall it was a fun night. Here’s a few thoughts…

Billy Crystal hosted the 2012 show after the Eddie Murphy debacle (or should I say the Brett Ratner debacle) and he did a solid job. Unlike last year’s odd and sometimes uncomfortable hosting from James Franco and Anne Hathaway, this was more grounded but still quite funny. Crystal used several tried-and-true antics such as the song detailing the Best Picture Nominees and the “What they’re thinking” segment. I found them and several of Crystal’s adaptive one-liners to be very funny. Several of the presenters provided some good laughs including Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Chris Rock (I was surprised, too), and of course Robert Downey, Jr. Oh, and c’mon Academy! Am I the only one who thinks that Downey, Jr. would be the funniest Oscars host of all time? Sign him up.

“Hugo” ended the night with five Oscars. It was awarded for its technical achievements and it’s hard for me to argue with that. “A Seperation” won for Best Foreign Language film which was followed by a rather unusual acceptance speech from director Asghar Farhadi. “The Descendants” won Best Adapted Screenplay and I was thrilled that “Midnight in Paris” won for Best Original Screenplay. Of course Woody Allen wasn’t there but did we ever expect him to be?

The supporting categories went exactly as expected. Octavia Spencer (The Help) and Christopher Plummer (Beginners) had already been christened the winners well before the ceremony began and that’s exactly how things played out. Spencer gave one of the most genuine and emotional acceptance speeches of the night and Plummer became the oldest Oscar winner ever. It was good seeing Nick Nolte recognized with a nomination even though I’m not sure he knew where he was last night.

Meryl Streep won Best Actress for her performance in “The Iron Lady”. That category had turned into a two person race and I really felt that Viola Davis had a good chance to win. But Streep was awarded for a performance that certainly outweighed the rather mundane and mixed reviewed movie. The Oscar media had tried their best to sell the whole Clooney (“The Descendants”) versus Pitt (“Moneyball”) Best Actor race. But as I expected (and hoped), Jean Dujardin won the Oscar for his wonderful performance in “The Artist”. Working with several more handicaps than the other nominees, Dujardin nailed his performance and deserved the award. His acceptance speech and subsequent dance showed his enthusiasm and I found myself applauding from my recliner.

The night only got better for “The Artist”. Michael Hazanavicius won the Best Director Oscar which is almost always a sign of which film will win Best Picture. Last night was no different. Hazanavicius’ gutsy project won Best Picture and I have no problem with it. While I was personally rooting for “The Tree of Life”, this was a case where the Academy got it right. “The Artist” was a nostalgic but touching film that felt plucked right out of the silent movie era. I loved seeing it win.

So while it was a fairly predictable night, it was a good night. The stars played dress-up and movie fans witnessed new films and new performances added to that Valhalla of motion picture history. I went 5 for 6 in the “Big 6” categories so that speaks to the shows lack of suspense. But there were some genuinely funny moments and some good movies received their due.