It Had to Be When Harry Met Sally…
From Girl meets Boy to Boy and Girl become good friends to…
When Harry met Sally… (1989) – Trailer HD Remastered, UsSkyPic and photographs © Columbia Pictures
The subject of today’s review has to be one of the more memorable romantic comedies When Harry Met Sally (1989). I bought this DVD recently in a Finnish charity shop when I needed a break from the sci-fi and superhero movies my husband and stepdudes are obsessed with. I bought it after recognising the familiar faces of Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal on the DVD cover, as my Finnish is good but I have a mental block with relation to remembering the verb to meet.
As when learning Finnish as an expat, two verbs will haunt you at the start of every conversation, tavata to meet and tappaa to kill. Harmless enough until you learn minä tapaan is I meet and minä tapan is I kill. So translating into Finnish, When Harry met Sally becomes “Kun Harry tapasi Sally” not to be confused with “Kun Harry tappoi Sally” which translates as When Harry killed Sally, you can see my problem when buying the DVD over here.
So, on with the review. When Harry met Sally asks the eternal question on whether men and women can just be friends without sex getting in the way… and throughout the film, it’s a case of will they, won’t they.. so if you don’t want to know what happens stop reading now as all will revealed.
Directed by Rob Reiner, the movie’s most quoted and memorable line from the probably the best-remembered scene was spoken by Reiner’s mother. It was written by Nora Ephron who was nominated for an Oscar for this film. She also wrote Heartburn (1996), starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.
The film’s leads are played by then Hollywood’s Golden Girl, Meg Ryan and Saturday Night Live (1975-) comedian, Billy Crystal. Ryan proves in this movie that she is the darling of romantic comedy in this role, which is very much hers. This as compared to the others in the running including Brat Packer Molly Ringwald. Although an unconventional leading man – I’d compare him to Bill Hader in Trainwreck (2015) – Crystal made the role his by writing more humour into his role.
Crystal starred in many 1980s comedies from the excellent Throw Momma from the Train (1987) alongside Danny DeVito and Anne Ramsey (The bad guys’ mum in The Goonies (1985) to This is Spinal Tap (1985). Acting support comes from Bruno Kirby – Crystal’s co-star in This is Spinal Tap and City Slickers (1991) and Carrie Fisher – Leia from the Star Wars film series.
Kirby and Fisher are a great support and totally convincing as Harry and Sally’s best friends. The film also at intervals shows elderly couples – played by actors – describing how they met each other and fell in love.
Harry and Sally’s story starts in 1977 with Sally Albright meeting Harry Burns – through his then girlfriend – to car share with him from Chicago to New York. Sally is cheerful, optimistic and happy. In contrast, Harry is a pessimist and a cynic who reads the last page of a book first so he knows what will happen if he dies before reaching the end of a book.
On the way to New York, they swap stories, open up about relationships and discuss their differing views on the ending of Casablanca. Harry tells Sally she’s attractive after she orders a dessert specifically to her liking. And you wonder if they will become more than friends. Sally gets upset at this and sees this as making a pass at her.
This leads to the pair discussing if men and women can be just friends. Sally believes men and women can be friends without having sex and Harry believes that a man can’t be friends with a woman after such an encounter. On arrival in New York, the two part ways with her disliking him.
Fastforward to 5 years later where Sally is seen snogging her boyfriend Joe at the airport. Harry passes them and recognises Joe, and Sally appears uncomfortable recognising Harry. Alone on the plane, Sally is recognised by Harry and they talk then he invites her to dinner claiming they can be friends as they are both in a relationship, her with his friend Joe and him about to be married. She turns him down and they part ways again.
The story then moves on a few years where Sally is lunching with friends, Marie (Fisher) and Alice. Marie is seeing a married man and hoping he will leave his wife. Sally has recently broken up with Joe with both her friends listing new potential boyfriends. Meanwhile, Harry is talking about his break up and divorce with his wife, Helen with his best friend Jesse.
Later, Marie and Sally move on to a bookstore where Sally bumps into Harry. Marie sidles off hoping for romance to develop and Harry and Sally reveal they are both single. They agree to have dinner together. You wonder will they, hoping dinner will mean more and this could be the start of something…
It is then that they become good friends and we see their relationship develop over the course of the year leading to a sweet montage that speaks volumes about their growing relationship. Over this time, they talk about their failed dates, their lives, talk constantly on the phone and watch late-night movies together, tucked up in their beds in their separate apartments in a lovely split-screen scene. It is obvious by now they are relaxed and can talk about anything with each other and they make each other laugh..so you hope love will blossom yet again.
Then at a New Year’s party – you feel the undeniable chemistry there more than ever – when dancing cheek to cheek you know that it’s feeling like much more than friendship for both of them. You desperately want them to get together but the moment is gone as awkwardness takes over them both, and neither reveal their growing feelings. They hug awkwardly as you sit there waiting for another moment…even when they give each other a wee New Years kiss.. but it’s gone.
This leads to the best-remembered scene of the movie, where Sally and Harry are discussing sex in a restaurant, which leads to that scene which will instead I urge you to see. Harry and Sally then go out with their friends, Marie and Jesse on the pretext that if one of either of them gets together with one of their friends, they won’t lose touch. This leads to an awkward double date, where Sally and Jesse, and Marie and Harry double date.
Both couples are awkward, find difficulty in making conversation and clearly don’t hit it off. However, when conversation is started by Harry about Sally and vice versa it is obvious there is a growing affection and chemistry. Marie and Jesse, however, hit off really well and they talk animatedly and clearly are attracted to each other. Despite Harry and Sally looking out for each other’s interests, Jesse and Marie leave together.
After this, we become more aware of Sally and Harry’s increasing attraction for each other as they bring dates to their friends’ home. They criticise each other’s dates to their best friend and give each other longing looks seeing them with their new partner. It’s heartbreaking to watch and you almost want to shout at the screen – tell him! tell her! in the hope, it will happen. You get frustrated with their friends for not saying anything as their feelings are obvious.
Sally then calls Harry saying her ex-boyfriend Joe is getting married. She’s in tears, vulnerable and upset saying Joe moved on with someone he’d known for a short time. Harry holds her, kisses her gently on the head and she kisses him back more passionately on the lips. They then kiss more – woo hoo – and make love. At last!
Harry is in shock and makes excuses and leaves in the morning. Sally appears happier. However after Harry bolts, the pair in panic phone their friends who are now living together to tell their versions of what happened the previous night. This scene is comedy gold and is a joy – though painful – to watch. Harry and Sally then meet for dinner…So there I’m going to stop and let you enjoy the movie with the questions circling your head..and just tell you Harry didn’t kill Sally!
Weeper Rating: 😦😦😦😦😦😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: /10
Hulk Rating: /10
Sex! Now I’ve Got Your Attention Blogathon 2016, No 8.
As part of the 2nd Sex (now that I have your attention) Blogathon I submitted this review on When Harry met Sally (1989). Carrie Fisher also features in my Star Wars The Force Awakens reviews and with her remembrance tribute here. A few Meg Ryan romantic movies are reviewed HERE.