Can men and women just be friends? I don’t know, and I could write an entire article defending each side of that spectrum, but anytime you begin to even have that conversation eventually (and usually fairly quickly) the discussion ends using the When Harry Met Sally example. And, why is that? Because that film so expertly and quintessentially was able to capture the dynamic of a romantic and platonic "friendship" between a man and a woman, with words that are so brilliantly written, the film contains one of the most quoted lines in cinematic history. After Meg Ryan, shockingly and loudly shows just how easy it could be for a woman to fake an orgasm, a woman sitting next to her states "I'll have what she is having." That statement was simple and perfect, and mostly, because it was written by Nora Ephron.
Ms. Ephron passed away yesterday afternoon. She had been suffering from leukemia for awhile, yet had kept it private as she did not want it to be publicly known. The news sent shockwaves through the industry as many took a moment to honor a woman who can be considered one of the first and best female, humorous and feminist filmmakers to date.
She began as a writer of films such as Silkwood and When Harry Met Sally, and then eventually began directing the films that she wrote herself. In a statement she once said, "“One of the best things about directing movies, as opposed to merely writing them, is that there’s no confusion about who’s to blame: you are.” Luckily, although she did have a few missteps (Bewitched) it wasn't often that she had to be blamed for much. Her movies were not only critically acclaimed; they were box office successes with most bringing in at least over $100m worldwide and some like Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail crossing the $200m mark. In addition, she was nominated for three Oscars and while she never won, her greatness for filmmaking is clearly cemented in history.
Nora Eprhon was a woman of many talents. She was a brilliant writer with a funny wit and style that was popular in many formats, such as in novels, blogging and writing essays. However, when looking at her career, she will probably be most remembered for being a brilliant filmmaker. When thinking about some of the best romantic comedies of all time, three of her films including When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail would have to be on that list. She had a way of capturing the dynamic between a man and a woman in a way that was magical yet real and made you weep a little every time. I'm not sure exactly why, perhaps it is the classic New York setting or the fight to save a tiny book store from destruction, but of all of them, You've Got Mail is my favorite. There is no sweeter moment than when Tom Hanks wipes a tear off of Meg Ryan's face and simply says, "Don't cry, shopgirl": heart melt commence.
As a writer and director, Ephron's films had the ability to capture the real thoughts and struggles of women, as they navigate work, love, unhappiness and all aspects of life. In fact, in many of her stories you see a woman who is in a relationship, but for one reason or another not happy. And then, she finds herself on a path pulling herself off and soon on a road to happiness. There is a sense of hope in all of her writing, but not in a unrealistic way (while, yes, there is of course some of that, but most of them are RomComs) and a sense that you can take control of your life and change it; so more than anything, her films give audiences hope. And now, there is a true sense of that reality missing in recent entries into the genre. Her ability to write and depict this sentiment will truly be missed.
Her latest and last big film, Julie and Julia, was a film that intertwined the lives of Julia Child and the blogger Julie Powell. It was a movie that was a love letter to both women, but once again, depicted two strong, yet lost women who found their way in the world once they found their passion for cooking, writing and butter. The movie garnered an Academy Award nomination for the wonderful Meryl Streep and while was a bit of a departure from Ephron's romantic comedies, it still had all of the tenants that made her films great.
Yesterday, the world lost an incredible filmmaker and while I am truly heartbroken that I will never see a new film by her, I know that whether on television, in a theater, on a dvd or in our hearts, somewhere one of her films will always be playing.