It’s a film for Valentines Day, Christmas Day, New Years Eve and every day in between- When Harry Met Sally is a film for everyday; but it’s not the title-characer Sally Albright who steals the show.
When it comes to the late Carrie Fisher, it’s almost impermissible not to mention the Star Wars franchise, but falling somewhat shy is talk surrounding many of her other roles. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Shampoo (1975) and The Blues Brothers (1980), are merely a selection of films from Fisher’s cinematic legacy; but one of Fisher’s most notable, and yet often forgotten roles for the great depth, philosophy, humour and enjoyment it brings, is her role as Marie in When Harry Met Sally.
Written and produced by Nora Ephron, and created with the undeniable help of director Rob Reiner, the 1984 blockbuster went on to be nominated for sixteen awards including the Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, and won the BAFTA for Best Screenplay – Original.
Fisher in particular brings a dynamic to the film that lacking such, could have turned the innovatory romantic comedy into something less meaningful and substantial for its genre- something in which made the film the success that had not been anticipated at the time.
I’m unaware as to when I first became aware of the film, but I know that Sally Albright gave me someone to aspire to become, alongside many of my other cinematic idols. With age however, or at least with watching the film repeatedly, it was Marie who later inspired me.
Inevitably, she becomes overshadowed by Sally, but delving into her character, we can attempt to deduce why she’s a great character not to be overlooked.
At Central-Park’s Boathouse, Marie’s relationship with a married man is the focus of discussion. She knows what she’s doing. She’s not naive, nor is she desperate. She stands on her own two feet. And just as Sally’s recent breakup crops up, Marie is not afraid to suggest her desire over Sally’s very recent ex. She pulls out her roller-deck of numbers, profusely handing out names to Sally- she’s the woman who has both a roller-deck of men, as well as a system of folding the corners of those who are now married. She’s strong, independent and yet she still yearns for the sort of romantic love that is often reserved for stereotypically-created characters. She’s an almost perfect combination and an anti-stereotype- the exact sort of character archetype missing from a great proporion of film and literature.
“All I’m saying is that somewhere out there is the man you are supposed to marry. And if you don’t get him first, somebody else will, and you’ll have to spend the rest of your life knowing that somebody else is married to your husband”
At a more basic look, if Marie had liked Harry (Billy Crystal) at their double-date, Sally would have never ended up with Harry, and Marie would have never met Jess (played by the late Bruno Kirby)- something that developed into a much more straightforward relationship than the aforementioned rollercoaster between Harry and Sally.
It is there at New York’s Cafe Luxembourg where Marie unknowingly quotes Jess’ own written word back to him; and thankfully out of her appreciation of the written word. It’s something many of us all secretly desire to do- to be able to quote extracts from various texts at the drop of a pin, and at establishments that are now deemed “a neighborhood landmark” or “[a] perennial favorite” (Zagat).
Marie is an intellectual and she’s funny with it. The scene plays each person against their ‘desired’ partner, proving subtly that they’re all sat with the wrong person. We all want to be Marie. We want to quote New York Magazine. We want to meet our parter over a mutual love or respect over something important to us. And on leaving, we, like Marie, wish to point to the red-suede pumps in the store window to diverge from the men before we talk about them. We want to jump into a cab with the man we were not supposed to be on a date with; and we want to do it just as effortlessly in her oversized coat and leather green shoulder bag.
After a heated game of Pictionary, she remembers exactly how many coffees she needs to make, remembering who takes cream whilst also giving directions to her bathroom. What may seem insignificant resonated with me. So subtly, one see’s a wonder-woman.
Under a wild-pastel headboard awoken by the phone, Marie consoles Sally, shares the news with Jess and then puts the phone down uttering some of the greatest words to be heard: “Tell me I’ll never have to be out there again”. Is she content? In love? Done with the chase? Confessing that dating is hard, often brutal. Stating that it’s much nicer to be somewhat stable in one single sentence and with a sigh of relief. Perhaps it’s all of the aforementioned, or an amalgamation. I like to think she’s found love.
The waggon-wheel coffee-table scene is by far one of Carrie’s most humous and telling. She’s a woman who is not afraid to drop her friends into the dispute and someone who is not afraid to state her disapproval of style openly. Harry’s rant takes over, but Jess holds Marie because despite her open hate of his style-choice, he respects her, lovingly looking into his eyes, as she utters: “I want you to know, that I will never want that waggon-wheel coffee-table”. Her timing is sublime. Her words are witty and truthful. By the end of the scene, we see her words have worked as outside their West Side apartment, Jess removes the coffee table.
She’s the friend you can go to the bookstore with. She’s the one who’ll get married in the New York Grand Ballroom of the Puck Building (Lafayette Street, Soho). Though she’;; firstly have a wedding dress fitting and won’t be afraid to tell you that your ex is now seeing a new woman who in Marie’s rectitude is: “thin, pretty, big tits, your basic nightmare“; because why hide the truth and lie?
When Harry Met Sally may have changed the face of Romantic Comedies, but it’s Marie who supplied much of the film’s quality content.
“Everybody thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor but they couldn’t possibly all have good taste.”