Screenwriter, director and all around wit Nora Ephron passed away yesterday at 71 from a long battle with leukemia. The Ephron movie I hold most personally dear (with the exception of Silkwood which is more of a Nichols/Streep thing for me) is Sleepless in Seattle (1993). When it came out on video I was in college working in a video store / pizza place. We always put movies on and they had to be safe for families so it was all G & PG titles. I'd play old movies and musicals and whatnot in the morning when people wouldn't complain about them but when it would get busier you'd have to have the new titles playing while they stuffed their faces full of hot melted cheese. Sleepless in Seattle was popular in heavy rotation. Loved that movie and always got a little heartsick right along with Meg Ryan, listening to that radio in her car.
My last Nora specific memory was the tickling experience of reading her brief spoof of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in The New Yorker. I remember my smile turning to audible laughter (aka LOL'ing ) a third of the way through and increasing in frequency as its brilliance sank in. There was an after pang - "If she's still this funny, how come we don't get another When Harry Met Sally?"
I didn't know at the time that she had already been sick for a few years. And even if her filmography contains its fair share of head-scratchers, on the whole its a good one. Her reputation has only been unfairly diminished by the shortsighted modern disdain for the rom-com genre which she ruled for a time. (While it's true that this genre is currently at its nadir, some of the greatest films ever made belong to it - think screwball.)
This morning my thoughts turned to Ephron's screen muses. While she worked with Tom Hanks, John Travolta, and Steve Martin multiple times I wondered sadly how Meryl Streep and Meg Ryan, her two most prominent interpreters, were feeling today. I have no idea what their personal friendships were actually like -- though Ephron's amazing AFI tribute speech to Streep suggests that theirs might have been filled with nonstop hilarious banter.
Since Ephron wrote so well and often about romantic relationships, I like to frame the collaborations in that way. Let's call her screen romance with Meryl Streep (Silkwood, Heartburn and Julie & Julia) an "amorous friendship" -- one of those mostly chaste things with occassional "what if...?" flarings of passion. The screen romance with Meg Ryan (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, Hanging Up) on the other hand can only be interpreted as "marriage" --unmistakably public, fruitful and life-changing for both.
What's your favorite Nora & Meg movie? What will you most miss about Ephron's best work?
The New Yorker The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut by Nora Ephron
Lists of Note "What I won't and will miss" by Nora Ephron
...and my two fav Ephron tributes: NPR's Monkey See and Stale Popcorn.