Had you asked me last week if I was a Nora Ephron fan I likely wouldn’t have been overly enthusiastic about it but I would have said something like, “Sure why not? I liked her movies and her characters. She’s pretty funny. So yeah, I’m a fan.”
In less than 24 hours since her passing as the internet has become a frenzy of clips from her movies, quotes from her books and general laments over her passing it’s become clear just the extent of her impact on both cinema and women in cinema. Her female characters were at the same time feminine and strong. Self-assured yet vulnerable. In a word: relatable. Additionally, Ephron was a lover of “the movies” and her characters conveyed that to us, the audience. From the way Rita Wilson in Sleepless in Seattle sobs over the love story in An Affair to Remember to her creative reimagining of Shop Around the Corner in You’ve Got Mail she brings the movies to life in a new and invigorated way. When Harry Met Sally, while now almost 25 years old, remains a touchstone for examining the dynamics in male/female relationships.
Her films are inexorably linked to modern pop culture: When Harry Met Sally is ranked #6 as the all-time best Romantic Comedy by AFI's 10 Top 10. In fact it’s ranked in almost all of their top 100 lists: 2000: AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs - #23, 2002: AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions - #25, 2004: AFI's 100 Years... 100 Songs - #60, "It Had to Be You," 2005: AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes - #33, "I'll have what she's having.” In Sleepless in Seattle she connected with a generation of children that so desperately wanted to be back in a stable family, with men and women seeking love despite logistical barriers. You’ve got Mail told the love story of two people who were and should be at odds with one another while also taking the internet, while still in its fledgling state and predicted just how integral it would become in both building and destroying relationships. She bridged generations of women with Julie and Julia by placing significance on their passions. Another important hallmark of her work is that she never demonized men. So many romantic comedies want their male leads to be bumbling idiots that women are drawn to because of their charm or good looks. Her men are smart, encouraging and positive forces in the lives of the women at the center of the narrative. Modern day writers should take a cue from her and understand it’s not a mutually exclusive relationship.
Now that she’s gone and the information superhighway has been bubbling over with her work I’ve had a chance to reflect not only on her films but her legacy as well and her impact on the depiction of women in film. She wrote women the more like women actually are than almost any other writer is offering. She writes relationships as complex and multidimensional. She understand that men and women are different, but can still be equal and neither has to be demonizing to the other. So would I say I’m a Nora Ephron fan? Now I’d offer an emphatic “Yes.”
Here are some of her great scenes:
This one from When Harry Met Sally is probably her most famous:
This one from Sleepless in Seattle gets me every time:
Here's the one from Sleepless in Seattle that I mentioned with an homage to An Affair to Remember:
This had to get posted because eating is one of my favorite pastimes too :)
This one from You've Got Mail here, is one of the sweetest scenes in a movie: