For as long as I’ve been writing about movies, I’ve always arrived at the final day of the year with an itch to point out the greatness of one scene — a scene I feel is the best New Year’s Eve movie scene of all time. And while there’s always new ways to write about a scene, I felt the best way to go about it this year is to repost what I wrote after the great and wonderful Nora Ephron passed away in 2012. Hers is a voice that expressed feelings like no other, and this scene not only puts the finishing touches on a fantastic movie about the complexities of the male-female relationship, but it’s also a wonderful moment to remember and cherish as we transition to a new year.
First, the scene. Below you’ll find my thoughts on it from June, 2012.
Nora Ephron was at her best when she was writing about relationships. Whether it was relationships that were evolving, disintegrating or stopping and then starting and then stopping and then starting again, Ephron had this uncanny ability of fishing out the realities of our lives and presenting them back to us in relatable, entertaining ways that usually ended with us smiling through tears or crying through laughter. And for this writer, no other Ephron scene better sums up the kind of artist she was than the final sequence in When Harry Met Sally.
By no means did Ephron invent the romantic comedy, but with When Harry Met Sally she created a benchmark that, to this day, Hollywood is still trying (and usually failing) to re-create. Ephron herself attempted to revisit some of those same themes (again with Meg Ryan) in Sleepless in Seattle, and then tried to revisit When Harry Met Sally with a twist of Sleepless in Seattle in You’ve Got Mail. But she captured lightning in a bottle with When Harry Met Sally; a film that expertly dissects the relationship between a man and a woman by offering up what is (and will always be) the best advice when it comes to achieving a successful marriage: You have to be friends first.
That message is spread all over the film, but it’s most prevalent in this climactic sequence in which Billy Crystal’s Harry has one of those quintessential rom-com epiphanies and desperately races to a New Year’s Eve party to tell the girl of his dreams that she is, in fact, the girl of his dreams. From the way he tells her (“I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out”) to the way she responds (Ryan tells you everything with those three “I hate you” lines), this scene is why we love watching Nora Ephron films. This scene is why we all yearn to fall in love.
This scene is why we go to the movies, period.
Happy New Year!
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