A veteran entertainment journalist offers a breezy, detailed rehearsal of three successful romantic comedies from the 1980s and ’90s.
Carlson—who has written for the Hollywood Reporter and the Associated Press—dug deeply and interviewed widely to inform this guilty-pleasure romp through the histories of When Harry Met Sally (1989), Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and You’ve Got Mail (1998). For each film, the author discusses the writing, actors, crew, shooting, editing and post-production, release, and response. As the subtitle reveals, Nora Ephron, who died in 2012, is the focus, and although Carlson is generally admiring, she doesn’t hesitate to zing her occasionally about her troubles with cast and crew—including a child she cut from Sleepless and a disagreement with a celebrated cinematographer. Still, the author’s approach remains steadfastly pro-Ephron. Carlson weaves other stories throughout—e.g., the careers of actors Meg Ryan (who emerged as a star in these films), Tom Hanks, and Ephron’s sister and co-writer, Delia. We also learn that the woman who spoke the title words in When Harry Met Sally was Ephron’s mother, and we find out details about the man who actually said, “You’ve got mail” (and other things) on AOL. The author informs us about the personal lives of her principals, noting sadly, for example, how Ryan, America’s sweetheart, became involved in an extramarital affair with Russell Crowe and became “Hester Prynne overnight.” The text is suffused with dialogue—some from the films themselves—a technique that helps readers consume all the more quickly this long buffet line of snack food. On a more serious note, Carlson continually reminds readers of the difficulties women face in Hollywood as both directors and as performers whose aging often slows and then terminates their careers.
A large bag of buttery popcorn that goes down oh so pleasantly.