I was reminded this summer that it was the 30th anniversary of When Harry Met Sally …, which is one of my all-time favorite movies. I remember it having a huge impact on me when I first saw it. It was the summer just before my senior year of college, so I wasn’t too far from the experience of leaving college to start a new adult life, I was planning to be a journalist, like Sally, and I was trying to imagine what my adult life would look like. That summer, I had heard from a high school friend who’d tracked me down, so I think I had fantasies brewing about a Harry and Sally thing happening (it didn’t — I never heard from him after that, other than running into him at a class reunion).
I hadn’t rewatched the movie in a long time, and I was in the mood for that sort of thing, so I watched it last weekend. It’s interesting how much my perspective has changed since I’m now a lot older than the characters. The friends-to-lovers thing was one of my romantic fantasies when I was younger and is still a favorite in romantic books, but I’m not sure how well it actually works in real life. Even in the books, there’s an element of attraction from the start in the friendship, or else there’s a time gap and the element of attraction hits when they’re reunited. In reality, it can be really awkward to try to make that transition, and it’s even more awkward when the feelings aren’t mutual — and if you’ve managed to remain platonic friends for a long time, the feelings probably aren’t mutual. One person may develop feelings, but the other is going along in platonic mode, either utterly oblivious or pretending to be.
Even with Harry and Sally, while they’d met earlier with zero interest, so they’d known each other a long time, it was only a little more than a year between them becoming friends and the big kiss at the end, and there were hints of sexual tension and attraction brewing long before that. It was more of a slow burn starting in friendship mode than a longtime friends into lovers situation. Realizing that has made me really rethink how that fantasy plays out in fiction and makes me feel better about the times when a friend became interested in me and it really freaked me out and made me uncomfortable. All those times I had my own Harry and Sally fantasy, it involved someone I was already interested in and wished would see me a different way, but when the shoe was on the other foot, I wasn’t all that keen, which makes me glad I didn’t make any moves on the people I was interested in who clearly didn’t see me that way.
But mostly I enjoy that movie now for the settings, especially all the gorgeous fall scenes, the jazz music, and the group of friends. Princess Leia may be one of my role models, but this is my favorite Carrie Fisher role because it allowed her to unleash the snark and be funny. I love how her character goes from being the one who’s a real mess at the beginning to being the one who’s sane and settled and dealing with her friend who’s a mess at the end.
It’s also a little alarming seeing how much of my wardrobe my senior year of college resembled Sally’s wardrobe in the movie. I’m not sure if I was trying to copy that look or if that was just what was in style and available then. I remember a lot of menswear-influenced jackets, and I even had a hat. Unfortunately, I was living in Austin at the time, so we didn’t really get the kind of fall weather that made that sort of thing very comfortable.
I wish we could get more films like that now, with actual grown-ups in a romantic comedy with sharp dialogue and fleshed-out characters. So many of the scenes, I felt like I was eavesdropping on actual conversations rather than watching a “scene,” which made the movie feel more real, not as artificial as so many romantic comedies can be.