There are romantic comedies and then there are romantic comedies. The first type of romantic comedy is semi-memorable, but when it comes down to it, the audience does not think of the film after they have the left the theater. The second second type of romantic comedy has legs long after the film has left the theater. It remains a favorite of audiences and critics and is celebrated as a hallmark of the genre.
When Harry Met Sallyis one of these films. This month is the 30th anniversary of the film’s release.
Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) meet just after they both graduate from the University of Chicago. She offers him a ride from Chicago to New York. They become friends, but come together and drift apart as life changes. After a series of failed relationships on both their parts, Harry and Sally reconnect. The question that defines their relationship is as follows: can men and women be friends without sex getting in the way?
Directed Rob Reiner, this film is an out and out classics. It has all of the hallmarks of the romantic comedy genre without stretching the patience of the audience. Ryan and Crystal have amazing chemistry and just work as the friends who might or might be something more.
It has one of the iconic scenes and one of the most iconic lines in movie history set in one of the best restaurants in New York City, the 2nd Ave Deli.
*Warning: this post contains spoilers read at your own risk.
On November 21st, 1997, the animated film Anastasia hit theaters.
Loosely based on the myth that Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia somehow survived the murder of her family in 1918, Anya (voiced by Meg Ryan) is an orphan who wants nothing more to find her family. Two con men, Dimitri (voiced by John Cusack) and Vladimir (Kelsey Grammer) convince her that she is Anastasia. Unbeknownst to Anya, there is a reward for the safe return of the grand duchess to her grandmother, The Dowager Empress Marie (voiced by Angela Lansbury). Neither Dimitri or Vladimir had any plans of splitting the reward with Anya, if she is believed to be Anastasia.
While this is happening, Rasputin (voiced by Christopher Lloyd) has risen from the dead and is eager to finish what he started ten years ago.
I look at this film, as I do its 1956 predecessor starring Yul Brynner and Ingrid Bergman, as a what if version of history. Especially in regards to the fact that Anastasia and Dimitri lived happily ever after. Marriages between commoners and royalty did not happen in that period.
Granted, the remains of all of the Romanovs were not found and made saints of the Russian Orthodox Church until after this film came out. This left wiggle room for the screenwriters to use the myth of the surviving Anastasia as the skeleton of the narrative.
As a narrative loosely based on a myth, it’s a reasonably good film. But to hold it up as historical fact requires a bit too much for me.
Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) have been around each other for years. Their relationship is strictly platonic. That is the way they both like it. They have their own lives, their own relationships, nothing could ever change their friendship. But fate has something else in mind for Harry and Sally.
This movie is rom com gold. A standard bearer for the genre for a quarter century, it both sticks to the script and steps out of the traditional narrative of a romantic comedy.
I absolutely recommend it.
And P.S. Just for fun, here is Meg Ryan faking an orgasm like the best of them while eating at Katz’s Deli, one of the best restaurants in NYC.
Every few years, Hollywood reaches into it’s vault and tries to reintroduce audiences to a story or genre that they may not be familiar with.
Down With Love (2003) is an homage to the early 1960’s sex comedies that starred Doris Day and Rock Hudson, the Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks of their day.
Barbara Novak (Renee Zellweger) is a feminist author whose book has hit the best seller list. Catcher Block (Ewan MacGregor) is playboy journalist who is convinced that underneath the feminist mask, Barbara wants what every woman wants: love and marriage. But he knows that she would sniff him out in an instant if he was himself. Pretending to be a shy out of towner, Catcher attracts Barbara’s attention, but will he be able to find what he is looking for?
While this movie is not as funny or subversive as Pillow Talk, it’s a nice homage and a reminder of how far women have come.
In recent years, Nicholas Cage has not, in my opinion at least, made any decent movies.
16 years ago, this was not the case.
In City of Angels, Seth (Nicholas Cage) is an angel who guides the newly departed to the next life. In the operating room, as Seth is waiting for his next assignment, he believes that Dr. Maggie Rice (Meg Ryan) is able to see him. Having the power to make himself seen by humans, Seth makes himself visible to Maggie. While developing the relationship with Maggie, Seth meets Nathaniel Messenger (Dennis Franz) a former angel who fell to earth and became human. Deciding to see where the relationship with Maggie could go, Seth takes a chance and leaps. But what he does not anticipate is the repercussions of his choices.
What I like about this movie is that it is romantic without being predictably or overly cheesy. Meg Ryan and Nicholas Cage have excellent chemistry. While movies about a supernatural being and a human (Yes, Twilight, I am looking at you) could turn out to be schmaltzy and predictable, this movie is not. It is an adult romance with all of the traditional hallmarks of a romantic drama, but it is not boring.
Hugh Jackman is one of the best actors of his generation. Not one to settle in one genre or one type of characters, Jackman has played badass Wolverine in the X-Men movie series, Peter Allen on Broadway in The Boy From Oz and in 2001, Jackman played the male lead in Kate and Leopold.
Leopold is a 19th century English Duke who, at the moment, is living in New York in the 1870’s. He has been informed that he must marry and marry well. His choices, despite his desire to marry only for love, are among the daughters of the highest level of New York Society. Kate McKay (Meg Ryan) is a single ad exec whose career is on the rise, but whose love life has been stymied by her less than sane ex boyfriend Stuart (Liev Schrieber).
They are brought together by Stuart, who discovered a spot just under the Brooklyn Bridge, where one may jump and land in another time.
Jackman and Ryan, known as the 90’s rom-com queen, have good chemistry. Is the story predictable? Yes, but most rom-coms are. The romance is leveled off in a good way by the comic relief brought on by Schreiber and Breckin Myer, who plays Charlie, Kate’s brother whose professional goal is to be an actor, but the career is not taking off as planned.
Do I recommend it? Sure, why not? Kate and Leopold is a cute movie. Sometimes we need a rom-com in our lives, and Kate and Leopold fits the bill.
Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogey And Lauren Bacall, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Every era has it’s favorite pairings. Actors who work on several projects over the years and just work on screen together in their respective characters.
In the 90’s rom com’s were defined by one movie couple: Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
They made three movies together. The third, You’ve Got Mail , premiered in 1998.
At the dawn of the internet age, Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) and Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) are rivals in the book selling business. She owns a small, independent book shop. He works in the family business, owning Fox Books, a huge Barnes and Noble like chain bookstore. They are also falling in love over the internet. Joe finds out who his internet pen pal is in in real life. He tries to win her over, but Kathleen still does not know that her internet pen pal and her business rival are one and the same.
Written and directed by the late rom com queen, Nora Ephron, You’ve Got Mail is not as cliche or as sappy and rom com movies have become since then. It’s got a zing, a life, an twist that is fun while still retaining the standards of a romantic comedy. And of course, the subtle nod to Pride and Prejudice never hurts.