Max Evry June 27, 2012
Nora Ephron may have passed away yesterday at the age of 71, but there’s no doubt her body of work will live on in her greatest films, from “When Harry Met Sally” to “Julie & Julia.”
Besides being one of the most prominent and articulate voices in the business, Ephron was a funny screenwriter with an acute sense for writing female leads that are either challenging or difficult, depending on Harry or Sally’s point of view. Along with Penny Marshall and Nancy Meyers, Ephron emerged during the late ’80s as one of the powerful new breed of female writer/directors who could craft sophisticated and, more importantly, profitable romantic comedies which engage men as much as women.
Her first produced screenplay for the acclaimed Mike Nichols drama “Silkwood” (1983) came out before chronicling her rocky marriage to Watergate journalist Bob Woodward in the novel “Heartburn.” When she adapted that book into a movie, also directed by Nichols, in 1986 (starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep) Ephron’s stock as a screenwriter rose, eventually leading to her directorial debut “This is My Life” starring Julie Kavner.
To celebrate her life and contribution to Hollywood as we know it, here are our picks for Ephron’s five best works.
5. “You’ve Got Mail” (1998)
Ephron’s lucky charm Meg Ryan and dream team MVP Tom Hanks reunited for this attempt to catch that “Sleepless” lightning in a bottle a second time, and it basically worked. This remake of 1940 Ernst Lubitsch film “The Shop Around the Corner” casts Ryan as a small bookstore owner being run out of business by megastore owner Tom Hanks. What they don’t know is they’re also engaged in a romantic back-and-forth online. This film is being parodied for the upcoming Paul Rudd comedy “They Came Together.”
4. “My Blue Heaven” (1990)
Written concurrently with Ephron hubbie Nicholas Pileggi’s screenplay for “Goodfellas,” and released within a month of each other, this can almost be seen as a comedic sequel following mobster Henry Hill (here renamed “Vincent Antonelli”) during his life in witness protection. Steve Martin gives a flamboyant, hilariously over-the-top performance as Vinnie, with Rick Moranis’ stiff FBI agent trying in vain to adjust him to the quant life of the suburbs. Directed by Herbert Ross (“Pennies From Heaven”).
3. “Julie and Julia” (2009)
Ephron’s last outing as director was also one of her biggest hits, chronicling the parallel lives of revered chef Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and contemporary New York blogger Julie Powell (Amy Adams), who attempts to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” over the course of one year. Streep is extraordinary in channeling Child, but it’s Ephron’s foodie nature that turns gastronomic delights on display into culinary porn. Don’t watch it hungry.
2. “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993)
For her second directorial outing, Ephron took Meg Ryan and paired her with “Joe Vs. The Volcano” co-star Tom Hanks and then did the unthinkable: They’re never together on screen until the very end. Ryan plays an engaged woman who becomes fixated on Hanks’ widower after hearing him on a late night radio show. Concepts of fate, magical destiny, and signs come into play as Hanks’ young son tries to play matchmaker on Valentine’s Day. New York’s Empire State Building, “An Affair to Remember,” and mild stalking all collide in this perpetual tearjerker.
1. “When Harry Met Sally” (1989)
Although director Rob Reiner took many stylistic cues from Woody Allen, Ephron concocted a unique scenario in which the typical “meet cute” results in 10 years of friendship between the high-maintenance woman (Meg Ryan) and the slightly uncouth man (Billy Crystal) before sex rears its ugly head to complicate things. Ephron’s sardonic screenplay cemented this as the über rom-com and a bellwether for male-female relations.
Categories: No CategoriesTags: Julie and julia, My Blue Heaven, Nora Ephron, Sleepless in Seattle, When harry met sally, You've Got Mail