I’ll have what she’s hav­ing – all over again

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

WHEN HARRY MET SALLY Di­rected by Rob Reiner Star­ring Billy Crys­tal, Meg Ryan, Car­rie Fisher, Bruno Kirby. 12A cert, lim­ited release, 96 min When Harry Met Sally, still sharp, funny and touch­ing af­ter all th­ese years, oc­cu­pies an am­bigu­ous place in the history of the ro­man­tic com­edy. Nora Ephron’s spiky script and Rob Reiner’s fluid di­rec­tion helped place a fad­ing genre right back in the main­stream.

Meg Ryan be­came the 1990s own Doris Day and went on to speak Ephron’s lines in hits such as Sleep­less in Seat­tle and You’ve Got Mail. Sadly, the pale copy­ists took over and the rom-com was trans­formed into the pa­tro­n­is­ing chick flick. That bub­ble duly burst and the genre is now about as saleable as the Mon­go­lian Yurt drama.

Of course we shouldn’t blame When Harry Met Sally. Ephron took tropes from the fast-talk­ing 1940s and worked them de­li­ciously into the un­set­tled sex­ual pol­i­tics of the 1980s. Billy Crys­tal plays the ar­che­typal heel who will need to change be­fore he is wor­thy of his less friv­o­lous fe­male friend.

“Men and women can’t be friends be­cause the sex part al­ways gets in the way,” Harry tells Sally when they meet shortly af­ter his grad­u­a­tion.

The film is un­cer­tain as to its an­swer to this ques­tion. As you should by now be aware, they even­tu­ally be­come friends and even­tu­ally have sex. So Harry is wrong? Well, it wouldn’t be a rom-com if that re­la­tion­ship didn’t end up as a prop­erly ro­man­tic one. Maybe he was on to some­thing.

When Harry Met Sally doesn’t take place in the real world. Like the come­dies of Ernst Lu­bitsch and Woody Allen (both un­avoid­able in­flu­ences), the film al­lows even its stu­pid­est char­ac­ters to say the fun­ni­est things.

That adds to an ex­pla­na­tion of its ap­par­ent time­less­ness. Ryan and Crys­tal spark off each other vi­brantly. The New York lo­ca­tions still have a glam­orous un­tidi­ness that was soon to be swept away.

Oh, and that’s Rob’s mom de­liv­er­ing the fa­mous punch line in Katz’s diner. You knew that.

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