Rated R for language and sexuality, including implied sexuality. You know, that scene. The scene that's in the movie to make you uncomfortable, but you can't stop giggling? It's the scene that makes When Harry Met Sally famous. Surely, you must know! You know, "I'll have what she's having?" I don't remember any nudity in the film. I will say that some of the sexual politics are very outdated. Harry is kind of a creep. I don't want to let it off the hook, but it is very 1989 masculinity. Rated R.
DIRECTOR: Rob Reiner
Oh man, this is a drastically different movie as a married man than as a single 20-something. It's night and day a different movie. That's a weird thought. Sad little Tim in his basement would watch this rom-com by himself, and think, "What is this movie saying about relationships?" After all, I had lots of friends of both genders. That seemed to be more normal when I was in high school and college. I mean, it would be weird if you only had friends of the same gender in high school. In high school and in my 20s, I completely misunderstood the message of this film. It gave me this weird seed that was planted in my brain. After all, the movie states its message very clearly. So why didn't I pick up on it until well into a marriage. (Note: My wife and I watched this on our ten year anniversary. She was a friend before she was my wife. This should all be taken into account.)
Billy Crystal implanted the idea into my head that all of my friendships with women were inherently romantic. I mean, I guess that's something that's always on the hormonal kid's brain anyway, but having it vocalized in a film with adults going through the same thing is just the confirmation that your crazy brain needed. The movie, from my perspective, goes out of its way to prove that Harry was right and Sally was wrong. Harry states that men and women can't be friends and, sure enough, the two end up together after almost destroying their friendship. Now, this confused puberty me pretty hard. On the one hand, I wanted to be the "Good Guy" type. We now know that this personality is also pretty toxic, but I'm going to excuse myself from my high school years. I wanted to live in world where I could have female friends and grow from these friendships. But the secret dark side of the "Good Guy" type is the knowledge that all of his female friends will fall in love with him if enough time has passed. That's what this movie locked in my head.
But I'm married now. How is the read different? Part of it isn't necessarily an age thing, but a pursuit thing. Watching this movie from the married person's perspective, I see the couple as Jess and Marie see the couple. It's not that they fall in love with each other because they are friends. It's that they're perfect for each other, but their defenses are up the entire time. Yeah, Harry becomes a better person because of his relationship with Sally. He's actually a misogynist who learns about his toxicity from his time with Sally. There's confidence and then there's boorishness. Sally likes confidence, but she doesn't care for his boorishness. Harry also provides balance to Sally. Sally has her entire life planned out like she does her meals. When someone doesn't meet unrealistic ideals, there's a break there that she denies. However, Harry is in no way part of the plan. That softening, the knowledge that neither one WANTS a relationship from the other, is the real message of the story.
Harry and Sally go from finding each other intolerable to falling in love by action. Harry's message of "Men and women can't be friends" stands on the shoulders of "The sex will get in the way." There are all these caveats that Harry throws down, but the one scenario that kind of undermines the whole thing is the situation where neither one wants to be in the relationship. Harry's theory stems that the male will always want to have intercourse with the female. But Harry, by his own admission, wants nothing to do with Sally. He was in love with someone else and Sally is way too neurotic to start a new relationship with. This doesn't mean that Harry's wrong. It just means that it delays things until a relationship begins to grow.
Harry and Sally are different people than they were ten years prior. I get this a lot. Again, I never want to meet younger me because I would find me insufferable. But that message applies to marriage a lot. I kind of stopped having really serious female friends. It's odd, because I'm a teacher. But When Harry Met Sally is kind of a cautionary tale. Harry and Sally fall in love because they don't want to fall in love. They're okay not falling in love at the beginning. But people naturally change one another. Over time, things start meeting in the middle. One of Harry's rules is about attraction (which he quickly backtracks, but I think it holds up). I find so much friendship with my wife that my male friendships act as something completely different than what I considered friendship as a single male.
That's why I find the older couple vignettes so nice. While not absolute in terms of storytelling, these moments highlight the specific friendship that comes out of great moments. Instead of watching When Harry Met Sally, the message isn't "Your friends will fall in love with you, give them time." The message is that your spouse should be your best friend. It's when you stop looking for that love that you make yourself vulnerable. It's about both members of the relationship letting down their guards. They enjoy each other for friendship first, and then everything romantic came later. It's a cool story that, sure, has some pitfalls with misinterpretation. It also might be a bit misogynistic at times. But it is still a very cute movie that weirdly holds up. I wasn't ready for that in the least. As much as I enjoyed it as a single guy, it holds up way better as a marriage movie.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.