1941 – 2012
Quite sadly Norah Ephron passed away today. Anyone who has written anything even mildly creative with any attempt to infuse those words with comedy has to have to utmost respect for who Nora Ephron was as a writer and storyteller. She brilliantly mixed female and male voices with banter that was both witty and real. Nora Ephron wrote 14 movies and I believe this should be what her Mount Rushmore would look like:
George Washington = When Harry Met Sally
Nora Ephron had been around for a little while before When Harry Met Sally was released in 1989, but this was the movie that defined what we think a “Nora Ephron movie” is. Women who are funny. Men who don’t equate misogyny with manliness or an ability to be friends with women as a sign of weakness. Relationships that are about more than sex without ignoring sex. But mostly a Nora Ephron movie is a romantic comedy built on banter, lots and lots of banter.
Thomas Jefferson = Heartburn
First a best selling novel then a major hollywood movie starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, Heartburn is the very autobiographical account of Ephron’s own divorce from Carl “All The Presidents Men” Bernstein, Heartburn actually came out 3 years before When Harry Met Sally. While When Harry Met Sally became the film that turned her name into a description Heartburn showed how much depth and talent she had in writing dramas (she had truthfully already shown that skill in Silkwood). It is also fitting that this movie starred Meryl Streep. When we hear Nora Ephron we think Rom-Com and we think Meg Ryan, the truth is Meryl Streep may have been her more accurate and more often used alter-ego.
Abraham Lincoln = Sleepless in Seattle
Lincoln was a game changer and so was Sleepless in Seattle because this was no longer about Nora Ephron the writer, this was about Nora Ephron the filmmaker. Sleepless in Seattle was only Nora’s second outing as a director and it turned out to be the biggest hit of her career. Tom Hanks proved a perfect match for Ephron’s style and brought a likability and sorrow and hope to his character that represents the kind of acting that never receives awards but that almost no one can do.
Theodore Roosevelt = Julie & Julia
Meryl Streep is brilliant as Julia Child and Amy Adams does her likable/cute thing to perfection in what turned out to be Nora Ephron’s last movie as both writer and director. This was a movie that always felt smaller, more personal and truer than a lot of the more Ephron-ish things she had done before (You’ve Got Mail as an example) and in time I think this may be viewed as her true triumph. Passion, disappointment and ultimately hope.
In a world full of cynical movies it was always nice to see the marriage of wit and hope that Nora Ephron brought to the movies. We will all miss that.
R.I.P Nora Ephron (1941-2012)