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WHEN HARRY MET SALLY

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Bruno Kirby, Carrie Fisher
Director:  Rob Reiner
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  MGM
Features:  See Review
Length:  96 Minutes
Release Date:  January 10, 2012

"You made a woman MEOW?!"

Film ***1/2

Owing more than a tip of the cap to Woody Allen, When Harry Met Sally is the brightest and funniest American romantic comedy to come along since Annie Hall.  With a strong cast, terrific script and competent director from Rob Reiner, it’s just as humorous and relevant today as it was when it first came out almost twenty years ago.

The age old question:  can men and women just be friends?  When Harry (Crystal) meets Sally (Ryan) as college graduates driving from Chicago to New York together, Harry doesn’t think so.  Sex always gets in the way and ruins things, even if it’s nothing more than the desire for sex.  “A man can’t be friends with a woman he finds attractive,” he assesses.  “So a man CAN be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?” Sally asks.  “No,” he says, “you pretty much want to nail them, too.”

It seems like the end for the pair, but they meet again five years later on an airplane and resume their discussion.  Again, it doesn’t lead anywhere, but fate seems to be at play here:  they meet up one more time in another five years.  Both are recently singled, and in need of a good friend.  At long last, it seems like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

But soon, romance begins to creep in, and the obstacles to it developing are entirely man-made by the pair:  neither wants to spoil their terrific friendship, and despite their obvious growing attraction, they fear sex will destroy everything.  This is the aspect of the film, apart from the jazz score and lovingly filmed New York locations, that owes the most to Woody Allen:  two people who should be happy together, whose only barrier keeping them apart is their own insecure neuroses.

This film still makes me laugh hard, loud and often like few comedies do after many repeated viewings.  I’ve seen this picture more times than I can count, and it still makes me laugh.  Mostly, I laugh because it’s truthful in what it has to say about friendships and other relationships.  But even when the film hits a grossly false note, like Sally’s demonstration of the fake orgasm in the middle of the deli, I still laugh, because there is still truth underneath the staginess.  And besides, that scene has become as much a part of American movie culture as “Rosebud”. 

The chemistry between Crystal and Ryan is genuine and winning, as are their chemistries with their respective best friends, Kirby and Fisher.  These are all people I feel a great affinity for, which is why, I guess, I never get tired of the movie.  I never mind spending an afternoon with them.

When Harry Met Sally is as good as romantic comedies come…it’s as funny as a picture with no romance, and as romantic as a picture with no humor.  It’s definitely a modern classic.

Video ***1/2

I was very pleased with this high definition presentation, which looks far better than any version I had previously seen.  The images are sharp and clear, and the color rendering is beautiful and natural, with a wide seasonal palate and no bleeding or distortions.  I notice no print problems, either…it seemed quite free of dirt and debris.

Audio **1/2

The 5.1 uncompressed audio is somewhat low-key…perfectly listenable, with good clear dialogue, nice music and no noise, but lacks dynamic range or any real clear use of the single rear channel.  I noticed, for example, in the phone scene with the four actors side by side, Harry and Sally are on the far right and left, and their dialogue is noticeably lower than that of the two in the middle.  It’s a perfectly adequate listen, and a soundtrack that suits the nature of the film.  It just won’t be a disc you grab to demonstrate your audio system.

Features ****

For starters, the disc features a commentary track from director Rob Reiner, which is a little sparse, but contains some good tidbits of information about working with the cast and writer Nora Ephron.  There are 7 minutes of deleted scenes, a new making-of-documentary featuring fresh interviews with Reiner, Ephron, Crystal, and Fisher and some flashback interviews with Ryan and Kirby.  There is also a trailer and the “It Had to  Be You” music video from Harry Connick, Jr.  A good package.

Summary:

When Harry Met Sally is a film that definitely deserves to be on Blu-ray, and MGM definitely did right by the movie with this quality feature-loaded presentation.  Feel free to take this review with you to your favorite movie store and tell ‘em, “I’ll have what Mike’s having”.  :-)

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