When Harry met Sally (1989)

I love that this movie was made the year I was born, it just shows that 1989 is the year where good things were made. And I just realized that by admitting this, I have revealed my age. No matter! I wholeheartedly embrace my almost-30 status.

I have only watched this movie once before, which is hard to believe, because it is so damn good. It is easy to see why Meg Ryan became the poster girl for romantic movies after this. I am surprised that Billy Crystal hasn’t done more romantic movies. He is probably known most for his Monster Inc voice contribution and his other comedic roles. It is a shame, because he definitely holds his own as a romantic lead.

We begin the movie with Harry hitching a ride with Sally to New York. They bicker all the way to the diner they stop to have dinner at. I think it is interesting that they have a conversation about Casablanca, which they discuss later on in the movie as well. Sally feels that Ingrid Bergman’s character was right in her decision, because that is the practical choice, while Harry feels that she secretly wanted to stay because of the great sex. It is interesting to see their different perspectives of this. Sally chooses the practical and safe option, while Harry feels great sex drives a relationship. When they discuss this movie again, through a fantastic split screen scene, we see that they view things differently now.

Harry has matured. He got married, and is still reeling from the separation with his wife. He has a lot of casual sex but it is obvious that the sex is not what he wants. Sally initially chose the practical and safe option, but we see at this point that she left her boyfriend because she wanted more than just practical and safe. She wanted a family and a life, and she broke up with him because she didn’t want to compromise.

This structure that the movie sets up is what really adds to the authenticity of these characters eventually ending up together. When they first meet each other, they don’t really like each other. He finds her attractive, but that is not enough for them to move anywhere in this relationship. Years later they meet again at the airport. She recognizes him, he doesn’t recognize her and actually stops to talk because he recognized the boyfriend. It plays with our expectations, because we assume that he has stopped because of her. Later on we see that he does start to remember her, and we get the discussion of one of the hot button topics in the movie. Men and women can’t be friends because sex always gets in the way.

But they do become friends years later, when they are both still reeling from the failure of their personal relationships. They are able to be friends because neither of them are ready to commit or move on to another relationship. One of the funniest scenes involve Harry and Sally setting up their good friends for each other, but then having these friends like each other instead. It is a very nice kind of demonstration that they are actually best suited for each other. We get the little jabs that they make at the man/woman that the other is dating. We are just waiting for the moment that things will change.

Sure enough, it happens when Sally finds out that her former beau is getting married despite only being with the woman for a few months. It is a jarring piece of knowledge, and she is in emotional pieces when Harry comes over. She is emotional and vulnerable, he is a man who finds her attractive. They sleep together.

The fall-out comes later when we realize that even though it was Harry who said men and women can’t be friends, that’s what he desperately still wants from Sally. He wants their relationship to remain as it is. She, on the other hand, wants more. She doesn’t want to be the back-up option. We go back once again to their first responses to Casablanca, and see that they are doing the opposite of what they had initially said. Sally wants to take the riskier choice. She is willing to risk the friendship to see where the relationship can go. Harry wants the safe choice because he doesn’t want to lose her. We can understand where the both of them are coming from. Harry’s choice comes from the fear of having another failed relationship, while Sally just doesn’t want to compromise and is pursuing what she wants.

A period of time goes by before they finally end up together, which for me really cements the relationship when it does happen. The last part of the movie involves the both of them telling us that they have gotten married, and I believe it. The movie has allowed me to invest in their relationship, and acknowledge the time that they have invested in each other, that makes the marriage that happens later so much more believable. The main issue with more modern day romantic comedies is that there isn’t this teasing out of chemistry. The first time they kiss is the scene where they have sex, and the kisses are so well done. You feel the leaning towards something, that they are on the edge of falling towards each other. So much yearning and sexual tension in those kisses! I was literally on the edge of my seat (I might have fallen over as well).

The little stories from different couples throughout the movie were a nice touch. It was nice to see the variations in the stories that were told as well. It is a reminder that everyone’s love story is different, and so is Harry and Sally’s. Also, I had no idea that Carrie Fisher was in this! I was rather young when I first watched it so I may not have known who she was (Don’t come after me Star Wars fans!). That is another thing that separates When Harry met Sally from other mediocre romantic comedies, which is the fact that the supporting characters are properly fleshed out. We get a sensing of who they are, and even their relationship is believable. I found it incredibly sweet that they ended up together. It’s like we got two love stories instead of just the one.

Kudos to Harry Connick Jr with regard to the music. Even now bits of it is still playing in my head, and it just suits the whole vibe and atmosphere of the movie. All in all, When Harry met Sally is a must see. Fantastic dialogue, well-developed characters, beautiful setting … it’s movies like this that really make you believe in New York as a city where you can fall in love. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal have lovely chemistry. I definitely need to take a look at more of Meg Ryan’s movies to see how it compares to this.

Now that I am at the end, I forgot that I failed to mention the fake orgasm scene. Haha! God it was hilarious! The fact that she went all out with everyone watching. Harry’s reaction was equally priceless. It was definitely a good way for them to show how comfortable they were getting with each other, especially when Sally had a problem with Harry calling her attractive earlier on because he had a girlfriend. There is just so much goodness to this movie; it will always remain one of my favourite romantic comedies.

Movie rating: 9/10, only because nothing is perfect, but this comes pretty close.

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