When Harry Met Sally, He Was a Jackass. Is This the Modern Love Story?


For my last 80s movie of the semester, I wanted to watch something a bit sentimental. After searching for a bit, I stumbled upon When Harry Met Sally.

 

Potato, potato, tomato, tomato…

 

The Romantic Comedy fit the bill I’d say, but my favorite part of the movie had nothing to do with Harry or Sally. In fact, I really hated Harry—he’s neurotic, rude, and ugly in my opinion. And, even though Sally insisted that she hated Harry too when he professed his love to her for the first time on New Years, her smile betrays her perverted attraction to this crazy man. I can’t say that I am attracted to jerks just because they know what kind of dressing I like on my salad.

Really? Look at that face.


Perhaps he is characterized in this way to deconstruct the idealistic nature of love, and the well-mannered, handsome prince charming. But life is brutal enough, why can’t we have another fairy tale love story? Market saturation?

They just feel so good…almost as good as Sally’s boisterous simulated orgasm in the café—but both fairy tales and Sally’s orgasm are glaringly artificial. The fake orgasm, one of the most famous scenes of the film, could be a direct mockery of idealistic modern romance because real love can’t exist in an idealistic vacuum. Harry and Sally do not follow the traditional rules of love. This=fake o. That’s depressing.

I find it interesting that Harry consistently uses a black phone and Sally uses a white phone, no matter where they are.

My hands-down favorite part of this movie was the recurring shot of older couples recalling how they fell in love. I could have watched a whole movie of them, paying attention to their body language, clothing, and speech patterns to reveal the intricate dynamics of affection in only 30 seconds.

 

The opening scene is of an old couple, and then at least 4 others present their story at regular intervals throughout Sally and Harry’s journey. Most of the stories—like the “high school sweethearts” who decided to get married 34 years later, the gentleman who experienced an ungodly number of divorces in a month before meeting his current wife at a funeral, the couple who spoke over each other but didn’t seem to mind, and the old Chinese couple who didn’t meet until their wedding day—were a bit complicated. But they were all seemingly happy—the imperfections made them irresistibly cute, almost more so than a love story that unfolded in a predictable way.

When Harry Met Sally suggests that imperfect love is the norm. I agree with that claim. However, I can’t agree with the claim that difficult, complicated, thorny love is cuter somehow more endearing than simple love.

The Music of When Harry Met Sally…

 

I can model nice looking coats and sing, too.

The last two reviews of When Harry Met Sally… reminded me that the soundtrack to the film was the big breakout moment for Harry Connick, Jr., who many compared to Frank Sinatra.

The soundtrack contains classic films reinterpreted by Connick as well as a few of his own compositions, I believe.

Here is the video to the main song of the film:  “It Had to Be You.”


 

 

“I’ll have what she’s having…”

I have always loved romantic comedies so I’m sure it is surprising to hear that I had not seen one of the most iconic romantic comedies of all time…until now.  I had always heard of When Harry Met Sally but always found it odd that Billy Crystal played Meg Ryan’s best friend and eventual love interest.  I understand the idea behind the casting, gorgeous, insecure girl and an unattractive, but funny and sweet guy end up being best friends…opposites attract sort of thing.  Still, even when these two very predictably grew stronger feelings for one another, I felt a significant amount of chemistry was lacking.  It honestly seemed, as the lead characters said themselves, that the casting was “a huge mistake”.  Don’t get me wrong, I like both actors, just not together.  Meg Ryan as Sally was quirky, yet charming, while Billy Crystal as Harry was quirky and awkward.  It just didn’t work when his character acted all macho and cool in the beginning like he’s some hot shot of his college sleeping with a bunch of women.  In my opinion, Billy Crystal playing the New York male who can’t settle down and sleeps around just wasn’t the right fit.  All this being said, I thought they did make good friends, but it just got weird when they started to see one another differently.  Of course I knew they would end up together (romantic comedies tend to be extremely predictable) but even when this eventually happened thanks to Harry finally confessing his feelings, it was an annoying moment because Sally was so stubborn all of the time! I found myself just wanting the movie to hurry up and end.  I liked how the film takes place over several years, but after about the first ten I was ready to move it along.  I kept thinking to myself, “Just get together already!”  It probably sounds like I am not a fan of this film at all, but that’s not true.  Overall, I didn’t hate it.  It isn’t my favorite romantic comedy, but it was cute.  That’s right, just cute.  I can see why it was such a big hit during its day-its very 80’s (hair, clothes, 80’s New York, etc) and this film was Meg Ryan’s breakthrough role most definitely.  She probably made the movie for me.  I had heard about the classic fake orgasm scene and now after finally watching it, I applaud Meg Ryan for a hilarious performance!  How awkward that must have been for her to film in that deli in front of all of those people!  I’m sure they had to do multiple takes, but her performance was fantastic! And of course, the even more classic line, “I’ll have what she’s having”, made me literally burst out laughing.  I do recommend everyone seeing this film once in their life just because it is a well known romantic comedy that is constantly referenced in pop culture and it’s nice to see Meg Ryan during her good days.  Nora Ephron’s script was great and definitely deserved its Oscar nomination.  Although there isn’t much chemistry between the two lead characters of Harry and Sally, the film is hilarious, quirky in its own unique way, and a typical cute romantic comedy with a lot of heart.

When Harry Sally Met Harry… or Whatever.

The epic.
The one.
The only.
The movie that dozens of people talk about and I had no idea why.
When Harry Met Sally…

As stated above (in not so many words) I had no idea what this film was about. Literally the only mental image I had was of a cat and a scorpion meeting.

Ok… that’s a lie but I really did have no idea what this movie was about. For those of you who are When Harry Met Sally… virgins here’s a quick synops:

Boy and girl meet and drive to New York together out of college.
Along the way, boy says, “Boys and girls can’t be friends only because boys always want sex.”
They part ways.
YOU’D THINK THIS WOULD BE THE END OF THE MOVIE BUT YOU’RE WRONGGGGG.
Months and years go by and the continually bump into each other.
They both lose their significant others.
They become “friends.”
Whaddya know… they have sex.
They hate each other.
They get married.

Now that we’re all on the same page let me clarify… I don’t really care for this movie. I didn’t find it to be brilliantly made, written or acted… but it’s memorable.
There’s something almost captivating about this movie- a sort of “universal” theme. Or maybe I just related to it because Sally fakes an orgasm in public… we’ll never know

The film nearly seems over sincere to an extent. While the relation between the two is endearing, I felt as if there was a constant “get on with it already” in the back of my head. Perhaps, now in the 2000s, after three decades of RomComs following WHMS, it now seems predictable. I don’t feel like it particularly fulfills anything substantial about the 80s though. There’s one scene where Harry is running and has some kickin’ leg warmers on and Sally’s hair is out the wazoo but there’s nothing obnoxiously 80s.

Overall, would I watch it again? Sure. It’s got some great funny moments and with a couple drinks and some close friends I’m sure the orgasm in the restaurant would be even funnier.

When Harry Met Sally

Image

The charm of “When Harry Met Sally” is not in the obviousness of their relationship –  we know the fate of these two from the time we read their names in the title – but more in the journey that Harry and Sally make to becoming a couple, or at least giving their “non-relationship” a name.  This prolonged journey follows the title characters through years of acquaintance-ship, fashion, hairstyles, and relationships, and allows us as the audience to acclimate ourselves to the idiosyncrasies of their personalities.  These factors and the thoughtful detail written into the characters Harry and Sally (thanks, Nora Ephron), along with fantastic performances, have created the classic that has passed the test of time.

Harry’s character is beloved because he simply is not immediately that lovable.  Our introduction to Harry shows him making out with his girlfriend, who is obviously far more into him than he is to her. Does this make him a bad person? No, however it does make him an irritating one.  When he first jumps into Sally’s car, he begins eating and spitting the seeds of gargantuan grapes onto Sally’s window. He is abrasive and arrogant. Claiming he has a huge “dark side” and bragging about how he broods about death, Harry basically holds this superiority over Sally’s head. His character is allowed room to grow over the years, though he still retains many of his “bad habits” – namely diving into relationships and sleeping with women without hesitation, while still not over his ex-wife Helen. He is also incredibly honest and observant, delivering the majority of the film’s classic musings on relationships. In some ways you could say Harry is our stereotype/archetype for the every man in a relationship. He is sexually unrestrained, operates with little emotion, and is, as Sally describes him, “an affront to all women”. Simultaneously, Harry is anything but a stereotype in that he is sensitive and intuitive toward Sally and her needs. He is emotional and owns that emotion, rather than stuffing it down like Sally, who by contrast denies her feelings to everyone including herself.
Sally is not free from fault here – she is painted as uptight, impatient, controlling, and in Harry’s words “high maintenance”. Not only is she stand-offish toward Harry’s persistent attempts to get to know her, but she is stand-offish in general toward love. Though she has a brief monologue where she describes wanting a family, all of her actions work against that notion. We can also think of Sally as the archetype for the every woman – she is family-oriented and by contrast to Harry is far more sexually conservative. This character trait is contradicted however in the famous faked orgasm scene, where she proves to Harry that women are capable of faking orgasms, while also mildly squashing his male ego.  Sally also breaks with her stereotype by being far more removed from her emotions than Harry.  It takes until the second to last scene of the movie at the New Year’s party, a span of over twelve years for Sally to admit to Harry that she loves him, and even then she whispers this inaudibly as they embrace.
Harry and Sally are interesting in that they are nearly perfect opposites, but are also the same in that they continually block themselves from the relationship and lives they desire. They go as far as setting each other up on dates with their best friends Marie and Jess, who end up marrying each other. Both Harry and Sally are emotionally detached, and fear a real commitment because of the risk of losing that investment. Harry fears repeating his mistakes with his ex-wife Helen and once again having his heart broken, while Sally wants a marriage and family, but fears the rejection she received from Joe whom she presumably wanted to marry.
I believe we all know a Harry and a Sally – those two great “friends” who maybe hooked up once, or perhaps hug a few seconds longer than any platonic relationship permits. They tap-dance around their emotions, date other people, and fulfill the major duties of most significant others, but they never quite “hook it up”. Harry and Sally is the story of the friends that manage to “hook it up”.  Yes, the friend-zone is possible to escape, and according to “When Harry Met Sally, we can escape it in a mere twelve years!