29. When Harry Met Sally…

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Movie: When Harry Met Sally…

Release Date: July 14, 1989

Director: Rob Reiner

Starring: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby.

Tag Lines: “Can two friends sleep together and still love each other in the morning?”

“Can men and women be friends or does sex always get in the way?”

Relevance: ‘When Harry Met Sally…’ was released in theaters in the summer of 1989. It was an instant critical success with some calling it “the quintessential contemporary feel-good relationship movie.” Everything from the direction to the screenplay to the two leads was receiving praise with that adulation eventually leading to a successful theatrical run. It also received numerous award nominations and has since been hailed as one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time. For me though, it flew a bit under my radar.

I was all about ‘Batman’ (see 115. Batman) that summer as well as preparing for my first semester as a Freshman in college. I know that I was aware of the film thanks to the trailer as well as the very publicized “orgasm” scene that had everyone talking. I knew it would be a movie I would eventually see as I was a fan of Rob Reiner’s films. In fact, this is his fifth and final film on my list of most influential movies of all time (see 251. The American President, 218. Misery, 184. Stand By Me and 57. The Princess Bride for the other four). But it also wasn’t in my top ten things to do before heading off to school.

I first saw the ‘When Harry Met Sally…’ over that following winter break when the film became available as a rental. I rented and watched the film with my entire family and it was thoroughly enjoyed by every single one of us. It was smart, funny and extremely entertaining. My mom, of course, loved the love story as well as Carrie Fisher, someone she always had admired. My dad instantly fell in love with Meg Ryan, along with the rest of America, and laughed a lot at Billy Crystal’s character. I was taken mostly by the screenplay. It was so witty and made me take notice of the writer, Nora Ephron, who eventually became someone I looked up to as both a writer and human being.

The next semester at school I went to see the movie again when it played on campus. My school would show movies every week (if I recall correctly it was on Friday nights) in Allen Hall, a place I spent a lot of time in being a Communications major. They usually played popular movies just released to rental or big summer blockbusters. I went with two friends to a fairly packed hall (there wasn’t a lot to do on this very small campus) and enjoyed the movie once again. One of those friends I went to the movie with was someone that would eventually become my girlfriend then wife then ex-wife. Because of that, ‘When Harry Met Sally…’ took on a whole new dichotomy.

The film became one that we would reference, quote and talk a lot about all of the time. During our holiday break in 1990, ‘When Harry Met Sally…’ was playing on HBO. Although still friends at this point, when we were watching the movie we would call each other while it was playing (like the characters did in the movie with ‘Casablanca’). We would send letters back and forth over break (yes, through the Post Office) to keep in touch and on those letters there was always some sort of reference to the film. “Oh, but “baby fish mouth” is sweeping the nation?” was one of our favorite lines that usually made the cut. That following Spring is when we finally took the dive from friends to lovers and ‘When Harry Met Sally…’ became our movie. It was a relationship that lasted nine years that included four years of marriage, one son and one divorce.

“Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” Harry was right. The sex part did get in the way of my relationship, although not necessarily the way he meant it. As mentioned on this blog numerous times, I came out as a gay man later in life and had an extremely difficult time doing so. I don’t wish anyone the kind of agony, depression and grief that I went through during that period (except maybe Donald Trump). I am sure my ex-wife went through her own drama as well, but I can only speak about mine. Although we are obviously still in contact due to our son, the friendship that we once had is now dead and buried. We didn’t get that happy Hollywood ending that Harry and Sally did at the end of the film.

Despite that this film would always remind me of my ex-wife, I still adored ‘When Harry Met Sally…’. I eventually bought the movie on DVD and have watched it countless times through the years. I have shared the love of this movie with a high school friend of mine for many years as well. She and I quote and reference this movie all of the time. “Really Marie.” She is one of my very good friends and one of the very best humans on the planet. She is my new Sally, even though I knew her for much longer than the ex, and this time I know that the sex thing will never get in the way. ‘When Harry Met Sally…’ remained one of my favorite movies of all time despite its not so great memories attached to it which just solidifies that it really is a wonderful piece of cinematic art.

Today’s Thoughts: “I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

Although I do enjoy romantic comedies, I wouldn’t necessarily rank them in my top five genre of films. With that said, I do really love ‘When Harry Met Sally…’ and was excited to revisit this old friend again today. Home alone, in bed with a cup of coffee, I was ready to go back to 1989 and relive all of the joy that this movie represents.

Rob Reiner truly is a gifted director and what a treat that he got to work with Nora Ephron, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan to create this beautiful film. It is still so funny and entertaining and a movie that never gets old for me. There are so many iconic moments and lines from the movie, it truly is difficult to pick a favorite. My husband says “I’ll have what she’s having” at least once a week, so I know what his favorite is, but for me it is those small, quirky lines that always make me laugh the hardest. And this film is filled with them. The cast is brilliant, especially Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby. Unfortunately both are no longer with us on this planet, but they are forever immortalized on screen in this gem of a movie.

‘When Harry Met Sally…’ is a true classic comedy that must be seen by all film fans, cinephiles or anyone that loves to laugh. It’s a remarkable movie that remains as fresh as it did thirty-one years ago. As every film on my list of most influential movies of all time, it comes highly recommended. Be sure to check it out.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Nora Ephron (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture, Rob Reiner (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Meg Ryan (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Billy Crystal (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, Nora Ephron (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay – Original, Nora Ephron (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Film (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Rob Reiner (nomination), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Nora Ephron (nomination).

Ways to Watch: HBO Max, iTunes, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, DVD Availability.

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