What I Learned From Nora Ephron Movies


Last week Screenwriter/Director/Essayist/Shero Nora Ephron lost her battle with cancer at the age of 71. I have been a long time fan of Nora. If you’re a chick flick freak like myself, you could spot an Ephron film within the first few minutes. Beautiful soundtrack (Harry Connick Jr., Harry Nilsson, Costello…), the New York City backdrops, and Meg Ryan. Ok, she wasn’t in ALL of them, but she was in a lot of them. She was in my all-time favorites specifically. Like fellow New York based director Woody Allen had Diane Keaton, Ephron had Meg. So chic, so quirky. I wanted to be her. When I moved to NYC in 2006 I remember thinking it would be just like When Harry Met Sally or You’ve Got Mail. It was not. It was more like a Spike Lee film. But anyways there was much, much more to the movies than style and scenery. The core of all the movies was about relationships. And boy did I learn a lot about relationships from them! It may have even added to my already neurotic nature. Or maybe I’m related to Woody Allen. Anyways, here is what I have learned from my favorite movies by Nora:

Heartburn (1986; Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep): Under the title of the movie there is a subtitle that says, “They thought it was love. It was really heartburn.” The first time I really had my heart annihilated I understood what she meant by that. I also learned that relationships aren’t always what they seem. Whether your own or someone else’s your viewing. What I should’ve learned right away was just because you’re married and with kids doesn’t mean he still won’t cheat. I have not been married, nor with child, but boy have I seen that happen a few too many times. And rarely has the guy come crawling back like Nicholson’s character.

When Harry Met Sally (1989: Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal): One of the absolute greatest movies of all-time. Period. First thing I learned? Men and women can never be friends because the sex part always gets in the way. Not only did it ring true then, but even in 2012 the debate still goes on. We’ve all been there. Whether you wanted your friend, or they wanted you, it gets awkward then friendship is lost. Or your significant other has a friend that’s opposite sex and they’re a little too close for your liking. You should be their best friend, shouldn’t you? Then you guys end up fighting over it. The second thing I learned? The power of the fake orgasm. When Meg’s character uncharacteristically does one in the middle of the diner it taught men they weren’t always really getting the job done, its ok for us to stroke their ego, and of course that we’ll “have what she’s having.” Then there was the scene between Harry and Sally right after she found out her ex Joe was getting married. She was so upset she called Harry over to comfort her. He asks her, “if you could take him back right now would you?” She answers with “No. but why didn’t he want to marry me?! whats wrong with me?!” I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there. I was just there not too long ago. I was crying over some guy I once dated and my friend asked me the very same question. Naturally my answer wasn’t much different. That’s just a combination of ego, loneliness and confusion. But I got exactly where Nora was going with that character. The last thing I learned-and I’m still holding out for-is the final scene in the movie and how important it is. Harry and Sally fight because basically he’s not wanting a committed relationship with her. She refuses to talk to him, ignores him. It finally dawns on him after not having her in his life that he doesn’t want to go on another day without her in his life. He runs to her, finds her and gives (still to this day) the most romantic monologue in a movie: “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.” And isn’t that how it should be? He appreciates all the little things, the things most people don’t know or notice about her. And he was sure about her being the one for him. He knew, like you know a good melon. Swoon.

Sleepless In Seattle (1991: Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks): This movie has gone down as one of the gold standards of romantic movies, but put that aside. What it teaches us is that your heart has to heal before moving on, but at some point you do have to move on. Don’t settle in a relationship just because they’re nice. You need “magic.” And take a chance on love, quit making excuses. There is no such thing as “bad timing”. He was widowed on one side of the country, she was engaged and living on the other. But when its right, its right.

You’ve Got Mail (1998: Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks): The mind is a sexy and powerful thing. They may have found each other attractive in person, but they were business rivals so it wasn’t happening. But writing each other anonymously they uncover a kindred spirit between them. This innocent back and forth of messages leads to them needing to meet each other. In fact, they realize how happy they could be with someone they don’t completely know they both ended their dead-end relationships in the hopes of this being the one. And it was. Lesson: get to really know each other, don’t settle in relationships and be with the one that makes you truly happy.

Of course I learned these lessons and far more by my own trial and error experiences in love, but these movies (many like HeartBurn) were based directly from Nora’s own personal life. Show’s the saying that life imitates and art and art imitates life rings true. Its sad there will be no new Ephron films, but her legacy lives on forever.

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