When Harry Met Sally
There are certain films that go beyond being popular. They transcend the ordinary and become part of Americana. Films of this caliber become part of the collective consciousness of the audience. What places When Harry Met Sally into this illustrious category is the combination of writing, direction and acting. As with many of the most loved films around the story line is simple, Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) were meant to fall in love. Throughout most of the film they resist but is gonna happen. When they first meet in 1977 they are thrown together when both have to drive to NYC after college. With their lives ahead of them they hope to start their careers and eventually become successful. Harry is to become a political consultant while Sally is off to become a journalist. On the way they begin to grate on each other. Harry is sure than men and women cannot be just friends because the possibility of sex will always keep them apart. After arriving in New York they part ways but over the years they keep bumping into each other. Each time seems to be a point in their lives when they could use a friend and friendship does start to grow between them. At one point Harry and Sally try to set each other up with their best friends Jess (Bruno Kirby) and Marie (Carrie Fisher) but Jess and Marie wind up a couple. Of course the inevitable happens and Harry and Sally realize they are in love.
Since this is a very typical plot a viewer may expect nothing special. This is just not true. What makes this movie number 23 on the AFI best comedies list is the wonderful chemistry between Crystal and Ryan. They are absolutely perfectly matched for these roles. Ryan is bright eyed, pretty and perky. She is able to demonstrate a growth in her character as the years past in the film. Crystal as an innately charming personality His background in comedy shins through but his warmth as a human being is what carries the role. He comes across as a gentle man, witty and yet caring. What sets this film so high is it is a love story not about passion but rather about the slow maturation of a deeply human relationship. Kirby and Fisher are perfect foils for the main leads. They are the sounding boards for most of the audience. They permit us to see the other side of the coin in how relationships can grow. Writer Nora Ephron has created urban, witty characters that would have been impossible to present if not for this talented cast. The merger of cast, writer and director create something special here.
The director, Rob Reiner, is a comic genius borne from genius. His father, Carl Reiner, was one of the pioneers of television when it was still a new medium. This film shows that the father can proudly pass the mantle to the son. Perhaps best known as the Meathead on the ground breaking sitcom All in the Family Rob Reiner shows there is a lot more under the hood. Among his previous films, Spinal Tap, Stand By Me and the Princess Bride, Harry and Sally stands out as one of those rare films that can live up to the old catch phrase, It made me laugh and it made me cry. Reiner is a straight foreword director. Nothing stands in the way of his telling the story. Everything is lit, framed and scored to perfection yet not to the point of distraction.
Fans of this film have waited a long time for this disc. It was supposed to be released December 7, 1998 by Polygram but that release was cancelled. That release was slated for a 4:3 video but this new MGM/UA release is thankfully in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. The Dolby digital surround track is wonderfully mixed. The sound field is not as expansive as it would have been with 5.1 but the beauty of this film is in the story and its telling, not technology. There is also an excellent set of extras included. The commentary by Reiner is in itself funny and insightful. A little documentary featuring the leads, director and author help to really provide a back set look at this film. Rounding things out is a Harry Connick Jr. music video and seven minutes of previously unseen footage. The wait is over for this disc, it was finally done and it was done right. A must have.