Dinner and a Movie: ‘When Harry Met Sally’
Rewatch the classic love story and whip up these delightful dishes
Welcome to our Dinner and a Movie series, where we feature nostalgic essays on some of our favorite films from the '80s and '90s, and share recipes inspired from movie moments.
Enjoy these delicacies inspired by 'When Harry Met Sally:'
When Harry Met Sally is not a movie about a single moment in time — it’s a movie about all of the moments in time. Nora Ephron’s story — about love, friendship, a little bit of simmering hatred, a lot of passing years and two fairly persnickety people — appeals to practically everyone.
The audience is dropped right in the moment that Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) meet for the first time. As recent graduates from the University of Chicago, both are moving to New York City and agree to drive together. By the end of the trip, after considerable banter, they part ways in unfriendly terms. What follows is a yearslong consistently inconsistent pattern of entering and leaving each other’s orbits, with “will they or won’t they” hanging over nearly every scene.
The beauty of When Harry Met Sally is it challenges every notion of romance, though there is a singular thread of sexual tension that runs throughout. When the characters finally consummate this tension, more than halfway through the film, it’s almost hard to watch. Harry, with one foot out of the bed, is too much to bear. We know he’ll break her heart. Sally is pitiful, with her catalog of VHS films. We just want it all to be over.
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Of course, that’s not who these characters really are — they are lovers, yes, but they’re verbal lovers, not physical ones, and their love story performs best when they’re circling one another: friends, enemies, frenemies. The viewer can’t quite tell. In the end, the timelessness of When Harry Met Sally is the long road that it takes to get there.
In following Harry and Sally on their circuitous road to love, we question what, after years and years, it is that draws us back, what finally overcomes the fact that a person can be so annoying when they order a slice of diner pie: “heated, and I don’t want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side. And I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla, if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it’s real. If it’s out of a can, then nothing.”
But Harry loves Sally, not only in spite of her peccadilloes, but because of them. In one of his final arresting scenes, on New Year’s Eve, he discloses his long-pent-up love. It’s not the overtures we expect, but the ones that we don’t. And it’s one of the best pieces of monologue in film: “I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
We do, too, Harry. We do, too.
More From Our Dinner and a Movie Series
'Beetlejuice' essay and recipes for shrimp with orzo and a bloody martini
'Steel Magnolias' essay and recipe for chicken country captain
'Heartburn' essay and recipes for spaghetti carbonara and chocolate cream pie
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