Nora Ephron’s name has become synonymous with the romantic comedy.
No doubt, many people have come to realize and appreciate how brilliant Ephron was.
1. Can men and women ever be just friends?
It’s a timeless question that is constantly addressed in romantic comedies, and 90% of the time the answer to the question is "no". Writer and actress Rebecca Gethings – who played Marie, Sally's best friend, in the U.K. tour of the stage play – described When Harry Met Sally as “a proper buddy movie” and in many respects it is.
Since When Harry Met Sally we have seen films try and address more openly this question of male-female friendship, for instance Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached and what happens when emotions or even sex is involved. Ephron championed that idea
2. Sex and fake orgasms are normal.
Long gone is the era when girls saved their virginity for “the one”. We’ve all faked it at some point and Meg Ryan did just that in that famous restaurant scene which left men feeling uncomfortable
The 60s film Sex and the Single Girl was about how women could use sex to their advantage to overpower men, and how they could enjoy sex without feeling tied down emotionally. When Harry Met Sally went that one step; it made sex about empowerment and not just for pleasure.
Two infamous modern scenes are as follows. In Friends with Benefits the two friends dissect each others’ performances in bed and honestly tell each other what they are doing wrong. The other film that comes to mind is What Women Want, where Mel Gibson uses his mind-reading abilities to give the perfect performance in bed.
Had we not had Ephron dissecting the fake orgasm none of those scenes would have existed.
3. You’ve got mail ... and BBM and Twitter.
In Sleepless in Seattle it all started off with a letter, and in You’ve Got Mail it all started with an email. You’ve Got Mail was a modern remake of the classic film The Shop Around the Corner and set the precedent for the role technology plays in romantic relationships.
We have now come a long way from that trademark AOL welcome. We’ve moved onto Skype, Facebook, and various platforms of communication that don’t actually involve being in each other’s presence.
But while technology in You’ve Got Mail served as the medium that brought our protagonists closer together, technology today in a lot of romcoms seem to be the thing that divides couples. How often does he text you? Do you spend more time on FB chat than meeting up? How many Xs does he use when he signs off? Ephron was the first person to ask these questions.
4. She Made Films About Women.
At her Wellesley commencement speech in 1996 Ephron told the graduates, “Be the heroine of your life, not the victim”. For better or for worse romcoms have generally been about women, most specifically women other women can relate to. It’s almost hard to believe that in a pre-Ephron era the genre was dominated by men.
Ephron never trivialized women, and one great example of this is when Meg Ryan’s Sally bursts into tears after discovering that her ex is going to get married.
Alison Stephenson argues that without When Harry Met Sally we wouldn’t have Bridget Jones or Juno, and whilse that seems a bit of a far fetched claim to make, Stephenson isn’t too far off the mark.
5. THAT final scene.
Every romcom builds up to that moment when the guy runs through the park to the girl he really wants to be with and makes that declaration of love that sings a symphony in every woman’s ear.
Billy Crystal’s killer line set the benchmark for final scenes in a romcom; from the truly romantic (“you’re the last person I want to see before I go to sleep and the first when I wake up”), to the seemingly mundane (“I love that it takes you hours to order a sandwich and that you get cold when it’s 70 degrees outside”).
It’s that wonderful reminder that love is when someone still thinks you’re beautiful even when you have bed hair and breath that smells God awful. As Juno’s dad would say: “Look, in my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person is still going to think the sun shines out your ass. That's the kind of person that's worth sticking with.”