I don’t know if it’s surprising or predictable that I loved “When Harry Met Sally”. After my mixed-feelings about last week’s art-film “A Clockwork Orange”, I feel a bit un-cool to so readily throw five stars at this work of pop-cinema. But I’d argue there’s a lot under the hood that makes this film so endearing to me.
True to it’s name, the film literally opens with our two characters meeting. Wasting no time on complex plot points or superfluous details, it maximizes a 96 minute run-time by immediately developing Harry and Sally (as characters and as a couple) nearly entirely through their conversations. I think this is one of the movie’s great strengths. By my interpretation, the first act takes up nearly 70% of the film, allowing the characters to just talk to each other without external conflict. By doing this, the movie doesn’t tell us these two are falling in love—it shows us.
Of course, we the audience go along with this otherwise simple plot and the underdeveloped world around the characters because this simplicity allows us to see ourselves (and our partners) in the characters. Oh, and because well executed banter is fun! Nora Ephron’s dialogue was the sincere and accessible structure of the film, while Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan’s chemistry and delivery was the glue that held it together. And as a last point, I REALLY loved the supporting contributions of the late Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fischer as the “best friends” that provided balance and levity to the whole thing when it got serious.
Ultimately, the movie’s depiction of love feels so grounded and natural that you can’t help but forgive it when it reminds you that it’s just a dopey romantic comedy after all. Whether it’s Meg Ryan’s bad crying, Billy Crystal’s bad “I’m running to tell her I love her” scene, or the implausibility of their eventual reunion, I stopped asking myself if I bought the story and just allowed myself to enjoy it. For me, that's what a good movie should do.