'When Harry Met Sally...' (1989)
A Millennial Lens
February 5, 2022
My name is Nicholas Tanaka. I fell in love with movies and studied film in college, but due to my age, I haven't seen many of the classics. I've decided to go back and watch the films that have formed our movie landscape today, and view them with a modern lens.
For Valentine's Day, we review 1989's "When Harry Met Sally...," the romantic comedy written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner. The movie follows Billy Crystal's 'dark' Harry Burns and Meg Ryan's 'upbeat' Sally Albright, who eventually fall in love. They are both professionals living in New York who cross paths numerous times over a decade before accepting that they've fallen in love. Their performances are excellent.
I was a little skeptical about Billy Crystal as a leading man. Most folk my age will know him for his hit role as Mike Wazowski from Pixar's "Monsters, Inc." or Mad Max from "Princess Bride." I assure you however, that it is just as strange of a casting choice as you might think, but it works. Crystal's morose humor and silliness is quite endearing and contrasts well with Meg Ryan's cheery and optimistic role. Ryan does an excellent job of making us fall in love with her, and it's easy to see why the next decade of her career cast her as the love interest for many other comedic stars. Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby round out the secondary cast as the quirky best friend characters. Despite the difference in eras, the characters are very relatable to modern audiences.
The writing is witty, but not like the heightened reality of a Sorkin film. The dialogue felt real, and the many uncomfortable situations felt realistic. While the entire film is just a smattering of conversations in various locales, the camera work is relatively economical and makes interesting decisions. Instead of making a standard shot/reverse shot, most of the conversations are held in the master shot, allowing the characters to interact with each other in real time instead of in the edit. This serves the film well, as it lets us fall in love with the characters' small idiosyncrasies, and their interactions with their environment.
The message of this movie, that absolutely got through, was the idea that love does not just happen one way. The little interviews with the old couples, in between the acts really cements this theme. No two stories are the same, but that doesn't make the love invalid.
After watching the film, I can see how it informed many sitcoms and rom-coms that followed it. The television sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" in many ways is a long form version of this story, that actually took a decade to tell. Without a doubt, a must-watch for this romantic holiday.