Harry and Sally meet when she gives him a ride to New York after they both graduate from the University of Chicago. The film jumps through their lives as they both search for love, but fail, bumping into each other time and time again. Finally a close friendship blooms between them, and they both like having a friend of the opposite sex. But then they are confronted with the problem: "Can a man and a woman be friends, without sex getting in the way?"Written by
Greg Bole <email@example.com>
The first time Harry and Sally stop at a diner (on the way from Chicago to
New York), Sally opens the menu, but on the next shot, she opens it again. Her hands are in different positions depending on the camera angle for most of the sequence. See more »
I was sitting with my friend Arthur Kornblum, in a restaurant, it was a Horn and Hardart cafeteria. And this beautiful girl walked in and I turned to Arthur and I said Arthur, you see that girl? I'm going to marry her. And two weeks later we were married. And it's over fifty years later and we are still married.
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Aside from freer language and more explicitly sexual humour, When Harry met Sally is a very traditional romantic comedy, very much in the mould established in 1934 by It Happened One Night. Two very different but evenly-matched people are thrown together by circumstance. They are initially hostile to one another, but over the course of the film, this hostility turns to love as their personalities are softened by exposure to their opposites. Indeed, the central traits of Harry and Sally correspond very directly to those of Peter and Ellen in IHON - he worldly-wise and cynical, she spoiled and certain of what's what. Neither of them, it turns out, is as right or as self-confidant as they believe. What's very modern about WHMS is its attitude to long-term relationships. It's no longer enough for the couple simply to fall in love and live happily ever after. They must have a full and real understanding of exactly what, or who, they're letting themselves in for. They must also be sexually compatible (hence the importance of their having slept with one another before they finally get together). Within this framework of traditional romance in an unromantic world, WHMS is almost perfect. Structurally, there are no gaps or implausibilities. Even the central coincidence of these people running into each other under these circumstances is answered. The short but affecting intermissions of successful old couples describing their relationships are not only crucial to the pacing of the film, they also make the point that Harry and Sally are just another couple with an unusual and interesting story. There's an element of luck and coincidence in every successful relationship. The effectiveness of the film's structure is perhaps best highlighted by the soundtrack. There's a perfectly selected Louis Armstrong track for every phase of their relationship - the soundtrack not only complements the mood of the film, it comments on the action. The acting is superb, with the two main protagonists as well as their two foils (Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher) all giving career-best comic performances. Without such fantastic performances, it's very possible that the film could have failed: these are essentially self-indulgent people, that we sympathise with them and recognise them is in great measure down to the stars. Finally, the script is fantastic. Of course nobody really speaks like that, but like all great scripts it distills emotions and points of view into a few lines. And it's funny. The one-liners are still sharp and amusing on the twentieth viewing, and the set-pieces are beautifully realised (the orgasm scene is only the most famous - check out Harry's olympic sex-dream speech - "Must have been the dismount" - or the "I'm through making a schmuck out of myself" phone call). All this, and a dinner party talking point about male and female relationships. Can we ever be just friends? Not even with an ugly girl? "Nah, you pretty much want to nail them too."
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