I know. It’s a massive cinema crime. Regarded as one of, if not the, best rom-com of all time, Harry Met Sally was released the year before I was born and I have somehow managed to avoid it for these 22 years. I hadn’t tried to avoid it. In fact, one day it was on the telly and I caught the first 10 minutes before I had to rush off somewhere – dinner, work, something. The world has clearly been conspiring against me.
But finally, I bought the DVD, made myself comfy and waited to be wowed by this all time classic.
Unfortunately I wasn’t. Despite a (slightly begrudging) love of rom-coms, Billy Crystal and even Meg Ryan, I did not love this film. To be honest, I felt more disappointed in myself than the film showing how much I bow to the considered classics.
So what did I know before watching the film? As I said, I knew it was a classic, I knew it starred Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, and I knew the basic plot: a pair meet early on, continue to meet through varying circumstances until they finally become a couple at the end of the film. Oh, and I knew about the fake orgasm scene.
This scene is a classic in itself and it’s not hard to see why.
Despite not loving the film as a whole, there were some other great scenes I did. I loved the blind date scene as the friends disregard Harry and Sally’s advice to prevent the other from being hurt. Their jump into the taxi left me giggling as the title characters were left silently stunned. I also loved the first phone scene when the pair have become friends and Harry is trying to heal after his separation from his wife. It was a great example of true emotion in cinema and a very simple and elegant way to connect the montage scene.
I certainly believe it is a good film in general but I also think it will always be a product of its time. My problem with the film is definitely connected to having seen the copycat films first. I’ve seen this product before, likely a cheaper copy but nonetheless old. I was also horribly reminded of the detestable chick-lit book Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern. The book took the format of letters, phone calls and emails between different characters, as the two main characters somehow managed to only admit their love of each other after 40 or 50 years. It was so exhausting to read and when When Harry Met Sally began to fall into that same tiresome slog, I felt the same frustration.
I feel like I would have loved this film if I’d seen it earlier in my life. My young, naïve self would have lapped up the stolen glances as Harry and Sally try to deny their feelings for the other but right now I feel weighed down by the opening premise: men and women can never be friends. It’s an opinion that appears to be as prevalent today as it was in 1989, so suggests this Jezebel article on the findings published in Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. There’s just something about this ideology that seems a little too close to rape culture – the supposedly unspoken consent through friendliness. I’m not saying When Harry Met Sally is advocating rape, but that I couldn’t separate this relevant concern whilst watching the film, specifically the moments that lead to the miss-timed sex scene. I was instantly taken aback by Harry kissing Sally in an attempt to comfort her, even though it appeared chaste. It just seemed entirely inappropriate and threw up a massive red flag.
So I’ve now seen When Harry Met Sally. It’s more than likely I’ll watch it again at some point but it hasn’t snuck itself into my heart. What I would love to see one day is a film similar to When Harry Met Sally but where they stay friends. I feel like this film already exists so if you know what it is, please point me that direction.