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When Harry Met Sally (1989)
When Harry Met Sally... is a 1989 American romantic comedy film written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner. It stars Billy Crystal as Harry and Meg Ryan as Sally. The story follows the title characters from the time they meet just before sharing a cross-country drive, through twelve years or so of chance encounters in New York City. The film raises the question "Can men and women ever just be friends?" and advances many ideas about relationships that became household concepts, such as those of the "high-maintenance" girlfriend and the "transitional person". The origins of the film came from Reiner's return to single life after a divorce. An interview Ephron conducted with Reiner provided the basis for Harry. Sally was based on Ephron and some of her friends. Crystal came on board and made his own contributions to the screenplay, making Harry funnier. Ephron supplied the structure of the film with much of the dialogue based on the real-life friendship between Reiner and Crystal. The soundtrack consists of standards performed by Harry Connick, Jr., with a big band and orchestra arranged by Marc Shaiman.
When Harry Met Sally... closed out a decade fondly remembered by Grosse Pointe Blank and Romy and Michele's High School Reunion and darkly satirized by Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho. It's a romantic comedy that has spawned a plethora of knockoffs so terrifying that, like its counterparts in all other genres, it may have been better if the script were never penned, if only to save us from the aftermath. But still, we have to give When Harry Met Sally... credit for what it did: Make one of the few romance films that bears any kind of truth without also being a dark comedy.
Two people who want absolutely nothing to do with each other in the beginning of the story, Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) end up driving together to move into separate apartments in New York City after they both graduate from college. By the time they reach the Big Apple, they're talking about their disbelief that friendship and sex can coexist, and as we all know from experience (and now cliché) they eventually hook up -- it's unavoidable.
Rather than make the mistake that countless copycats have by making their tryst a quick cut away from a sex scene to appease the MPAA, When Harry Met Sally... takes its time to the inevitable end. And I mean takes its time: For 10 years Harry's and Sally's paths weave back and forth like Robert Downey Jr. trying to walk the white line. At years-long intervals they befriend each other, drift apart, befriend each other again, and, at long last, find themselves testing their own theory (to the inevitable happy ending).
As for why When Harry Met Sally... still contains cinematic merit a dozen years after its initial release, it actually has all of the strengths that make a movie last. Nora Ephron's dialogue is sharp, witty, and intelligent, Billy Crystal shows us a movie in which he (mostly) acts instead of does a stand up routine with other actors present, Rob Reiner directs a simple story instead of trying to preach on God-knows-what-tangent, and even run-of-the-mill Meg Ryan takes a huge risk with her squeaky clean image by faking an orgasm in a deli (a now-legendary scene worth the rental alone). And don't forget Harry Connick Jr.'s stellar soundtrack.
While to this day it is a mark of masculine shame to admit to actually liking the movie, I personally am not afraid to give it my seal of approval. And I'm awfully manly.
The DVD release features a ton of extra footage, commentary track, and a making-of documentary.
A Collector's Edition DVD adds a commentary track, deleted scenes, and seven making-of featurettes. Worth checking out.
The day they met.