When Harry Met Sally

Review Haiku:

Harry meets Sally

They bang, and Sally gets pissed;

Then, Sally’s not pissed.

And away we go. David’s RomCom Challenge 2015. Thirty days, 30 films of varying quality and questionable appeal. For film number one, I found myself face to face with Billy Crystal’s glistening forehead and Meg Ryan’s flowing golden locks, and spent 90 some-odd minutes marveling at the decency of the movie while failing to shake the feeling that these two lovebirds would never do The Deed in any actual universe.

My mind ran wild during the first 30 minutes. Is Billy Crystal even attractive? How was late-80’s fashion ever a thing? What the flying fuck happened to Meg Ryan? Is Rob Reiner’s career arc the strangest thing or what? Through it all, this was quite an enjoyable film. It’s a character-centered, dialogue-driven look at a relationship between a man and a woman (who is totally out of his league, come on) who can’t figure out how to coexist with the specter of intercourse hovering over them.

Restraining order

There are a lot of things to discuss regarding When Harry Met Sally, so let’s start with what I didn’t particularly like. Most of this stems from the idea that Harry has any chance in hell of porking Sally. On one side, we have a perspicacious relationship guru who might be a stalker; on the other, we have a beautiful young woman who has 8 million potential suitors but decides to settle on a conceited man she kind of sees sometimes every few years or so. It’s lovey-dovey and likely par for the course when it comes to these movies, but I wasn’t buying it. In my notes (yes, I took notes. This is serious goddamn business), I specifically wrote at the 26-minute mark that I was shocked Sally wasn’t seeking a restraining order. I also wrote this: “ISN’T THIS LIKE REALLY CREEPY THESE PEOPLE MEET ONCE EVERY FEW YEARS AND JUST TALK ABOUT LOVE AND SEX WHAT.” My notes are great.

An actual scene from this movie (Credit David Paul Kirkpatrick)

Everything works out in the end, obviously. But I think Reiner was really plumbing the depths of reality with this. “But David, it’s a movie!” you’ll say. Yes, it is a movie. Movies aren’t foundations of pragmatism, I know. It just seemed like a bit of a stretch.

I’ll have what she’s having

Beyond that one complaint, it was nearly impossible not to enjoy this movie on some level. Billy Crystal is eminently likable and the girl in a 1989 Meg Ryan costume Meg Ryan is stunning. The movie is so intensely focused on its topic that you forget there’s almost no plot. In fact, it was engrossing to the point where I didn’t even realize Princess Leia was in it. Awesome!

But this movie turns on one scene, and anyone who has seen it knows immediately what I’m referring to.

This scene is unequivocally great. I was laughing my ass off, alone in my room. This is romantic comedy gold, and will probably stand as the best scene I will be exposed to during this journey. I have peaked, and I still have to watch From Justin to Kelly.

Every time I watch a movie, I look for a reason to remember it. Movies like Die Hard, The Blues Brothers, The Dark Knight, Men in Black…these movies are bursting from the seams with memorable moments. “I’ll have what she’s having” is undoubtedly a moment I will remember, and it will be the first image I call to mind whenever this film is brought forth in conversation.

Cutting onions

This seems to bear mentioning: I cut onions during this movie. I have no shame. The tears welled up in my eyes as I watched Meg Ryan unabashedly make love to the gossamer hairline adorning Billy Crystal’s reflective pate. It was a powerful moment.

I didn’t cry, you fools. I was literally cutting onions. My mom was home late and I deign to make dinner on Tuesdays so I cut onions for a makeshift omelette. Guys, I was slicing onions for dinner and tearing up while watching a romantic comedy. Am I off to a great start or what?

Final thoughts

Best line: “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Best use of cut scenes: The cutaways that showed old couples describing their relationships were absolutely adorable. How could you not like that?

Worst fashion sense: Everybody in this movie. The sweaters are salacious, the coats are odious, and there’s actually a scene where Billy Crystal is running in cut-off yoga pants or something. The only redeeming quality is Meg Ryan’s hair, which looks immaculate, though impossibly blond.

WHAT (Credit Comedic Intent)

Sappiness rating: 2/10, thank God. I will finish every post with a sappiness rating. The scale is one to 10. The lower a movie is, the better. Ten means the movie was sappy as fuck and made me want to gouge my eyes out because of how sugary sweet it was, one means it was decidedly un-sappy and was trying to be a good movie and not just a happy-go-lucky drooly smooch-fest. I hope for more 1’s.

Conclusion

I have in my mind this notion that all rom-coms are prosaic; When Harry Met Sally is much better than that. It’s not just a good romantic comedy, it’s a good movie. It was not exciting (I get the feeling ‘exciting romantic comedy’ won’t be on the ledger for the next month), but it was thought-provoking and engaging. It was, quite possibly, the best movie I will watch between now and October 15. It’s all downhill from here.

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