When Harry Met Sally... 30th Anniversary Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (22nd February 2019).
The Film

Romance is a fickle thing; the nuances of developing relationships and the inherent differences between men and women – capturing these elements convincingly on film has been Hollywood’s game since the advent of film. But few movies are able to truly dissect men and women on both a macro and micro scale, exposing weaknesses, concerns, habits, and quirks the “other half” just doesn’t understand. Also, speaking as someone who normally detests the quintessential “romantic comedy”, more often than not these pictures delve into cliché and contrivance in an effort to satisfy fantasy-minded viewers. But then there’s a movie like “When Harry Met Sally…” (1989), which might just be the greatest example of a movie cracking open the psychological egg of what motivates the machinations behind a budding romance. It also happens to be hilarious, tightly scripted, expertly directed, perfectly cast, and features one of cinema’s most enduring lines, “I’ll have what she’s having”.

Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) are recent graduates from the University of Chicago who share a car ride to New York City, where both intend to begin their respective careers. The year is 1977. During the course of the ride Harry and Sally get into a debate over whether men and women can be friends, with the former saying it isn’t possible because sex will always get in the way. Sally disagrees. The two part ways in Washington Square Park, expecting never to meet again – but they do, five years later when Harry inadvertently runs into her when he spots an old friend – Joe (Steven Ford), Sally’s current beau - in the airport. The two have a brief exchange in which Sally is surprised to learn Harry is engaged. They part, still agreeing not to be friends.

Another five years pass and Harry once again runs into Sally, this time at a book store. Their conversation goes better than ever, with the two discussing Sally’s recent breakup with Joe as well as Harry’s impending divorce after his wife left him for another man. They decide maybe this “friend” thing could work after all, and so begins a whirlwind friendship wherein the two share intimate thoughts, meals, late-night conversations, and all the accoutrements of a relationship without actually being in one. Neither is able to realize they are in love with the other. Even Harry’s best friend Jess (Bruno Kirby) and Sally’s gal pal Marie (Carrie Fisher) see the writing on the wall amidst their own budding union. But sex changes everything, always, and once Harry and Sally decide to cross a line it forces both into a position of confronting the feelings they’ve been avoiding.

Throughout the film Rob Reiner peppers in footage of fictional couples recounting actual tales of love – chance meetings and drawn-out courtships that all ended the same way: with a happy union. Sometimes love is there all along and one can’t even see it; other times life gets in the way but occasionally the universe opens a door through which forlorn lovers can reconnect. Harry and Sally spend much of the film avoiding the obvious, refusing to fall into life’s love traps and challenging each other’s perception of what love and friendship and sex mean. Men and women are biologically and fundamentally different. Harry is a pragmatist and a bit of a pessimist, though he always colors his cantankerous comments with comedy. Sally is high maintenance (but thinks she’s low maintenance) and fussy, with visions of a storybook romance in her head; the older she gets the more embittered she becomes to the reality in which she isn’t married, following society’s expectation of a path in life.

In addition to ruminating on the romantic challenges facing both sexes, the film is also filled with hilarious moments. Crystal’s usual shtick works perfectly for Harry, allowing him to be relatable and genuine; a reflection of men that few films sought to tackle. His glass-half-empty approach to life and unvarnished observations speak to many men in the audience (this one included). Ryan makes her leading debut here and it is immediately apparent why she was in such high demand after this film. She’s quirky, cute, firm, and impossibly easy on the eyes. Bruno Kirby brings plenty of laughs whenever he appears on screen. His guesses during the couple’s game of Pictionary had me and my girlfriend in stitches.

“When Harry Met Sally” went on to become one of 1989’s top box office hits and it has endured ever since – for good reason. The themes and conversations and obstacles resonate with viewers. Harry and Sally act and talk like real people, not fantasy characters in an unbelievable situation. Their struggles and triumphs speak to our own concerns and wants. Nora Ephron’s screenplay is wonderfully constructed, organically developing a longtime love between two people who are destined to be together. I believe it was Crystal who said “Women need a reason for sex; men just need a place” but once the act is done it does, indeed, change everything. This is the apex of romantic comedy and a film that will certainly be enjoyed for generations to come.

Video

Shout! Factory touts a new 4K scan of the 1.85:1 1080p 24/fps image, though the previous Blu-ray issued by MGM was no slouch. The picture is exquisitely detailed, appearing smooth and filmic without any tinkering to improve upon cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld’s camerawork. Colors look accurate, especially those warm fall tones in Central Park. Film grain is evident without being obtuse. This is a minor, though welcomed, upgrade in quality over the old release.

Audio

An English DTS-HD Master Audio track is available in 2.0 stereo or 5.1 surround combinations. The score is delightful and jazzy, capturing the essence of NYC without pretension. Dialogue levels are set nicely, allowing the film’s focused dialogue to be front and center while a multitude of city sound effects occur in the peripherals. Source music is rich and fulsome, especially the perfectly-timed “It Had To Be You”. Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired.

Extras

There are two audio commentary tracks available – the first, with director Rob Reiner, screenwriter Nora Ephron, and actor Billy Crystal; the second audio commentary track is a solo track with only director Rob Reiner.

“Scenes from a Friendship” (1080p) featurette runs for 44 minutes and 34 seconds, this is a wonderful, candid chat between Rob Reiner and Billy Crystal filmed specifically for this release. I could listen to these two old cronies go back and forth for hours.

“How Harry Met Sally” (SD) is a featurette that runs for 33 minutes and 21 seconds, this is a retrospective look back on the film, featuring interviews with cast & crew.

“It All Started Like This” (SD) featurette runs for 19 minutes and 48 seconds, Reiner & Ephron sit down for a very candid chat about the film’s origins, gestation, production, casting, real-life influences, and so much more.

“What Harry Meeting Sally Meant” (SD) featurette runs for 12 minutes and 29 seconds, this looks at the cultural impact of the film and its legacy.

“I Love New York” (SD) featurette runs for 8 minutes and 29 seconds, discussion about the city as a character and how it plays into the film.

“So, Can Men and Women Really Be Friends?” (SD) featurette runs for 7 minutes and 54 seconds, this tries to tackle one of the film’s central concerns.

A reel of deleted scenes (SD) runs for 7 minutes and 24 seconds.

“Creating Harry” (SD) featurette runs for 5 minutes and 47 seconds, Crystal talks about shaping the role and what parts of himself he brought to the film.

“Stories of Love” (SD) featurette runs for 5 minutes and 10 seconds, learn about the couples seen in the film, all of whom were actors telling real stories.

“When Rob Met Billy” (SD) featurette runs for 3 minutes and 56 seconds, these two longtime best friends recall their first encounter – and it was kismet.

Music video by Harry Connick Jr. (SD) runs for 2 minutes and 50 seconds.

A theatrical trailer (SD) runs for 2 minutes and 12 seconds.

Packaging

The single disc is housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case. The cover art is reversible. A slip-cover featuring new artwork is included on first pressings.

Overall

This film has endured for one good, simple reason: it is one of the best examples of “romantic comedy” ever put to film – and it put the genre in quotes because, really, it is so much more than that. Shout! Factory’s loaded edition boasts stellar a/v quality and loads of very worthwhile bonus features. Highly recommended.

The Film: A- Video: A- Audio: B+ Extras: A+ Overall: A

 


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