When Harry Met Sally (1989) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This is both a brilliant and a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy.
The average part is the plot. Man and woman meet, don't like each other. Meet again, don't remember each other. Meet again, become friends for years. Sleep together, don't know how it will affect their friendship. After sex, woman is obviously in love, and offended that the man is not. But it turns out he is. He tells her so, they live happily ever after.


Pure Hollywood crap, right?

It could have been, but it isn't.

The reason it manages to escape from the Crap label is the brilliant dialogue, the sharp wit, great casting, well-defined characters, the genuinely romantic score (Ella Fitzgerald with Ellington, Sinatra and Connick sing Gershwin. It's heaven if you like the New York Sound), and the theretofore unexpressed honesty of both the men and the women. Except for the phony-baloney happy ending, it's perfect. Tells the male side of the story exactly that way it is for men, tells the female side from the female point of view. A movie that actually tells the truth about how men and women really feel about the whole romance/friendship/relationship thing. It's people saying the things that are really on their minds.

And when push comes to shove, given those positives, the silly plot doesn't matter at all.

Do you think men and women can be friends without the sex thing getting in the way? Meg thinks "sure, I have lots of male friends who don't want sex", but Billy tells her the truth. That the guys may not be trying to have sex with her, but they want to (unless they are gay). Billy says, "a man can't be close friends with an attractive woman without wanting to have sex". Meg says, "then you admit a man can be asexual friends with an unattractive woman". "No, you pretty much want to nail them, too."

Of course, what happens is the same thing that always happens when you tell a woman the truth. They don't believe it, since men have been lying to them all their lives. We know, of course, that men will tell a woman any lie they want to hear if there's a chance to get laid. I always try to tell women that I've talked to zillions of guys in my life about the subject and never met one sober heterosexual white guy who loves to dance. Women can't accept that because ALL men tell them that they love to dance, because that's what they have to tell them in order to get laid. Needless to say, I also tell women I love to dance when I want to remove important items of their clothing. But it's a lie, just like it is for all of you.

I also tell women, if I might someday get a chance to sleep with them, that men and women can be friends. I say this because that's what they want to hear, keeps me in their good graces, keeps me around as a friend, and therefore opens up the possibility that someday I might get to fuck 'em. This of course, is the 100% unvarnished truth, but if you told this to women they'd think you were kidding or lying. Crazy world. And that's the whole point of the film.

I suppose most people remember the film for Meg Ryan's famous faked orgasm while she's sitting at a deli table, and for the line that comes immediately afterwards, when the woman at the adjoining table says "I'll have what she's having".

Maybe you didn't know that the woman is director Rob Reiner's mom. And maybe you didn't know that the faked orgasm wasn't in the first script. The scene was originally just a discussion of faked orgasms, but Meg Ryan told Reiner she could do a really great one, so they let her. Pretty wise decision, as it is now one of the most famous scenes ever recorded on film, and the follow-up line is one of the funniest ever.

DVD info from Amazon.

Some good features:

more than a half dozen deleted scenes

a brand-new "making of" documentary made just for the DVD.

full-length commentary by Reiner

A pretty good transfer, widescreen anamorphic. 1.85, enhanced for 16x9 screens.

But the dialogue is crackling from start to finish. The idea was born when director Rob Reiner and his producer friend Andrew Scheinman had lunch with writer Nora Ephron. The group got to talking about their dating lives, kept laughing through lunch, and Ephron went home to get started on making their stories into a screenplay.

Billy Crystal was asked by Reiner to take the part, essentially to play Reiner himself, and accepted his friend's offer without ever consulting with his agent or his managers. Turned out to be another good decision, as the little fella got to star on one of the greatest romatic comedies of all time, and was perfect for the part of the wisecracking but soft-hearted Harry.

Likeable movie. The rare movie that appeals to both sexes, and I dare you to see it and not come away humming a Gershwin tune.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4, Maltin 3.5/4, Apollo 87.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it a classic-level 7.6, Apollolo users even better at 85/100.
  • With their dollars ... a big hit. $93 million at the box, and a popular rental ever since.
My guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B.

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