Film & Water #185 – When Harry Met Sally Commentary



To wrap up 2021, Rob welcomes back frequent guest Dr. Chris Lewis to present an audio commentary for 1989's WHEN HARRY MET SALLY!

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5 responses to “Film & Water #185 – When Harry Met Sally Commentary

  1. Feeling very sleepy and had to get a bunch of desk work done this afternoon. Happy to spend it eavesdropping on a discussion of one of my favorite movies. There aren’t a lot of flicks that I’m game to hear a fan commentary track on, but this one was a delight. Thanks to this movie, New Year’s Eve is my favorite annual disappointment, because it never comes close to matching the swell of bittersweet emotion I felt watching this alone theatrically. I also really enjoy 200 Cigarettes, for its cast (even the problematic ones) and for being the other cool NYE flick. I’d seen Meg Ryan in the John Candy/Eugene Levy rent-a-cop vehicle Armed and Dangerous and the superior remake of D.O.A. with future husband Dennis Quaid. She was instantly adorable, with her distinctive “girlie” voice, and her chemistry with Quaid was legit. The coerced intimacy and situational vulnerability made me feel for her character in the neo-noir, plus she spends most of the picture in only a slip. Did college girls still wear slips in the ’80s? I certainly wouldn’t know from firsthand experience.

    When Harry Met Sally… extremely vaguely recalled a long time non-relationship of mine, and it was easy to transfer all my unrequited romantic feelings onto Sally. Draw your own conclusions about my parallels to the more miserable, over-opinionated, hyper-analytical side of Harry. Aside from Joe Versus the Volcano I felt like I lost Ryan to her becoming “America’s Sweetheart,” or at least competing with Julia Roberts for the title (who I never crushed on but made better movies.) I do wonder why Tom Hanks ended up being her other long term screen pairing instead of Crystal, as their energy was way more “pals,” and this might be the rare case where it’s the male actor’s “difficulty” that hinders a career. I’d been familiar with Crystal since Soap, and where it might be a reach to qualify me as a fan, I did follow him through Running Scared, Throw Momma from the Train and the City Slickers flicks before petering out on him. When I’m occasionally stumped for something to write, “the night was wet/moist/humid/sultry” comes to mind. As for Ryan’s career, it never recovered from the public scarlet letter of her affair with Russell Crowe during the filming of Proof of Life, with the very off-brand erotic thriller In the Cut sealing her fate. Botched plastic surgery and the harsh realities of an aging actress did the rest.

    I’d always liked romantic comedies, but in the aughts, I made a conscious choice to “save” them for relationships and focus on more esoteric/transgressive stuff during my alone time. Then I mostly dated alterna-chicks who weren’t into them, and my current longest term partner has a low tolerance for Hollywood schmaltz. So I’m a rom-com guy who never watches rom-coms, though admittedly, I prefer that to being subjected to the low grade crud shoveled out by Hallmark and Netflix these days. I’m now way too old to invest in the emotional stakes of Lana Condor or Joey King, but I did catch the tail end of The Shop Around The Corner the other day.

    It says a lot that I wrote this instead of finishing up replying to Zero Hour Strikes! I was supposed to toggle between this and the tedious process of uploading episodes to our new host, but got too sucked in to divide my attention.

  2. A very fine episode on a film I’m not really fond of. You can count me among those who see it as a lukewarm take on Woody Allen’s superior Annie Hall. I’ve also never been much of a Billy Crystal fan as his appeal is lost on me. Listening to your commentary makes me think I should give Harry & Sally another shot.
    One quick recommendation: Your discussion made me think of a more recent “boy & girl find romance in NYC”: I’m a big fan of Woody Allen’s recent A Rainy Day in New York with Elle Fanning, Selena Gomez, & Timothee Chalamet. It’s an utterly charming little romantic comedy that’s full of great NYC locations. Also, Cherry Jones has basically 1 scene & I consider it one of the best I’ve seen in the last couple of years.

  3. Great episode—this movie is comfort food for me, which we all need right now. And Rob and Chris did a great job of channeling that feeling.

    Three nit-picks…

    — You say that Rob Reiner hasn’t really directed anything worthwhile since the early ’90s, and I have to disagree: The American President (1995) is a marvelous movie—not only as Aaron Sorkin’s warm-up for The West Wing, but in its own right. It can be painful to watch now—oh, for the days when conscientious and patriotic public servants could outmaneuver power-hungry bad actors at the high levels of our government—but its sparkling dialogue and charming performances take it a long way.

    — One particularly interesting detail of Harry and Sally’s relationship that you didn’t address: When they first meet up in the early ’80s, right after they have coffee and discuss their breakups, Sally asks Harry to get dinner with her. He says yes, but verbally establishes the relationship as friendly, and I think Sally is a bit disappointed, even though she goes along with it. So you could definitely argue that while Harry has to grow to love Sally romantically, she was always attracted to him (well, “always” starting ten years after they met), and just sublimated it for a while. That’s actually something I don’t love about the movie: It really seems to argue that obnoxious Young Harry was right about men and women being unable to truly be friends. Like you, Rob, I don’t agree with that, and (as a longtime fan of platonic friendships with women) I don’t particularly like that. (That’s why my best friend despises this movie, in addition to having the popular opinion that it’s Woody Allen Lite.)

    — Other New Year’s movies, besides this one and Godfather II: The Poseidon Adventure, High School Musical, The Gold Rush, Sex and the City. But I agree with you, Rob: It’s curious how few there are, considering how central the holiday is in our culture (and so many others).

    Excellent work, thank you.

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