Rob Reiner’s portrait of a couple whose growing attraction toward each other threatens to disrupt their friendship.
Bouncy blonde Sally (Meg Ryan) is the “modern girl” who believes that she and Harry (Billy Crystal) can be friends without being lovers.
Harry, on the other hand, believes that men and women can’t enjoy a friendship without sex getting in the way.
The film begins in 1977 when Sally gives Harry, her girlfriend’s lover, a lift from Chicago to New York. He’s too pushy and vulgar for her; she’s too hoity-toity for him.
For the next eleven years, Harry (a political consultant) and Sally (a journalist) labour to stay in friendship and out of each other’s bed.
Cut to 1988: Harry’s wife (Harley Kozak) has dumped him for a tax attorney. Sally’s fella (Steven Ford) is planning a wedding but not with Sally. Harry sets up his pal (Bruno Kirby) with Sally, and Sally pairs up her chum (a sly, sassy Carrie Fisher) with Harry.
Disaster. Kirby and Fisher become lovers instead, having little patience with two people who can’t see the obvious. They were meant for each other.
Other things are also obvious. The plot, for example. You can see the ending coming for miles. You can also see that the film, with its simple opening credits, lush Manhattan setting, Jew-Gentile love match and jazzy soundtrack of standards from the 1930s and 40s (with Harry Connick Jr warbling and tickling the ivories), begs comparison to Woody Allen.
But Rob Reiner has picked up the ball and given it his own unique spin. From Crystal and Ryan, he has drawn star-making performances.
The standout scene in a very likeable movie takes place in a cafe where Ryan demonstrates beyond a doubt that it’s possible to fake an orgasm of thermonuclear proportions.
Lisa Jane Persky