My Tryst with the Queen of Romcom, Meg Ryan

Meg Ryan has a new romcom out in theaters called, What Happens Later. A purveyor of ideas of romance and lover of the laughs, I decided to take a deep, spoiler-filled, dive into some of her former movies before going to check this new one out. While I have not yet watched Meg’s latest outing, that is for a future post, I am going to look at where we’ve been before we see where we–or Meg Ryan–is going.

You’ve Got Mail

The entire app dating market has based their economy after the charm of this movie. It’s undoubtedly cute and I loved it in middle school. Then I loved it even more in high school when I picked up more references, like Joe, Tom Hanks, being bothered by Joni Mitchell’s lyrics about the illusions of clouds. Now it hits different yet again all these years later. The movie, more like magical realism than realism, sets reality aside and while there is nothing wrong with fantastical love, I just don’t buy it. I could buy When Harry Met Sally, it felt like these were real people with real struggles. Stuff like this is adorable, but it doesn’t really happen. Yes, there’s that familiar trope that the person you love the most is right in front of you. Where When Harry Met Sally captures that perfectly, You’ve Got Mail captures the fever dream of this fantasy, but that will be explained more later. 

The relationship that I could buy into was the relationship between Kathleen, Meg Ryan, and Frank, Greg Kinnear. I do think it ended a little too happily, but maybe that is because I’ve never seen a breakup in which neither person grieved it at all. Frank seemed like a cute and dynamic person. Rather blandly, opposite to Frank was Joe’s partner Patricia, a bland trope. She was self-centered and surface-level and I’m tired of seeing the “wrong person” for a main character be this “Cinderella’s-step-sister” type. If she was that entitled to begin with, would he have actually been with her? Show me a bad relationship for a main character in which the not-right partner has a great deal of strengths and things they bring to the table, but who doesn’t understand the intricacies of their partner the way they need to. That’s so much more true to life than the overwritten story of the wrong lover we get here. Then again, maybe 24 years ago this was a breath of fresh air.

Timeless though I think, is time itself. The movie lingered too long in that middle hour between 30 minutes and the hour and a half mark. Meanwhile, we needed to spend much more than fifteen minutes when Joe and Kathleen started falling in love in each others physical presence. This could have been the best part of the movie.

And here’s the part where I really don’t buy it, when Joe decided to pursue Kathleen, showing up to her apartment, how did he get her address? George, I guess? But would George really give out her address to someone she hates? And honestly, wouldn’t it be kind of creepy for him to show up there? And then make tea at her apartment?! While he’s there, she slips into bed, he tucks her in, touches her lips before she kisses him. It all seems far too intimate for the relationship that they have before this point. If someone who put me out of business showed up at my door with flowers then made me tea, I wouldn’t be okay with that! Nobody makes me tea in my own house unless we have a very special relationship. It’s adorable, but again, magical realism. I’m not the most socially savvy person in the world, but in general, people don’t use people’s house appliances when they’re not really friends.

On a positive note, I loved the way this movie uses music. Pop music and orchestral music mix to great effect. I fell in love with I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City when I was in high school because of this movie, and I got a kick out of the Both Sides Now joke by Joni Mitchell, as mentioned, and Stevie Wonder’s contribution is perfect.

My heart is not without passion, and I confess that the last twelve minutes made me smile the whole time. And for that, it gets two Meg’s to protect each other from one Hanks.

Sleepless in Seattle

Every romcom has some elements of unbelievability, but this is no more realistic than The Princess Bride; it’s just in a different genre. Annie is a stalker who hires a private investigator to sus out the man she heard on the radio, chases him to Seattle, then breaks up with her fiancé to go meet him on the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day. Not only would it not happen, it’s also creepy.

It was, however, fun to see David Hyde Pierce, most known for playing Niles Crane on the sitcom Frasier, again as a psychologist. Plus I recognized the kid as the same who took the lead in Toothless, where once again he played a son whose mother died. Was he type-casted for these roles at age eight?

“That’s your problem. You don’t want to be in love. You want to be in love in movie.” —Becky (Rosie O’Donnell) 

When I was sixteen, love crazy, and willing to do be a bit weird and wild to chase crushes, it never ended well. Also the little thing of it all, of course, not being received well. Older and wiser as I am, back then for me and now with this movie, It would be received badly by me if someone hunted me down this way. I didn’t want to be him or her in this situation and left a bit concerned.

“I’m not getting on a plane to meet somebody who could be a psycho lunatic. Haven’t you seen fatal attraction? —Sam  

Sam comments about the dangers of random attraction and it is supposed to be funny, but it’s kind of the truth. Annie was literally stalking him! She watched Sam play with Jonah all day. Imagine if the roles were reversed.

An even stranger problem for me is when eight-year-old Jonah left to meet Annie on his own, taking to the skies to do so in a clearly different era of air travel. Sam found out that his son was on a plane and then immediately booked the next flight to follow in pursuit of his son at the Empire State building. Nowhere in this did he consider contacting authorities? Seriously? I know kids used to just go outside for hours on their own, but this is stretching!

One last thing, why did Walter have to be sick all the time for the audience to see that it wasn’t the right relationship for her? I felt bad for Walter. It wasn’t his fault he couldn’t breathe out of his nose. Allergies and sneezes are much more relatable to me than a lot of this movie, and for that any all other aforementioned reasons, I award Sleepless in Seattle one Hanks and half a Meg.

City of Angels

A fantasy setting with angels and a true 90s vibes, like a cross between ER and Touched by an Angel. I was immediately brought back to my childhood with the etherealness.

It’s probably just a preference, but I couldn’t feel Meg’s Maggie fall in love with Nicolas Cage’s character, Seth. Of course, technically Seth couldn’t feel anything at all until he became human but he was kind of just a creepy “see you everywhere” type of person-angel, and someone I could seem myself getting a restraining order on if this happened to me in real life. It was also a little too dramatic for my taste. I don’t eat steak because I’m vegetarian, but if I did, I would say there was no pink, and that was a problem.  

I have a bone to pick with the yet again with the “other person,” the person Maggie was engaged to: Jordan. He kind of had no role in the film. Why was she with him? Why didn’t she love him? If you’re going create this obstacle for your protagonist to fall in love, it should be a dynamic obstacle on some level. He was just kind of nothing. He didn’t serve a purpose. Comment and let me know if I’m wrong here, because I just did not get his presence.

And for the biggest problem in the film: why did Maggie love Seth? I get why Seth loved Maggie. He felt seen on a literal level for the first time. But he was kind of a weird stalker who claimed he didn’t have blood and asked some strange questions. I don’t understand this romance.  

I did actually like that the patient, Nathaniel Messinger, was a former angel too. Cool plot twist! And how Seth’s best angel friend wasn’t mad at him for needing to live as a person. How cool is it when you have a best friend who doesn’t get mad at you for living your true self, even when they feel it might not be the best thing for you? I feel like that’s rare.

What was intriguing for me wasn’t the romance, but the questions that it brought up about death. We can all imagine these questions weather we have a faith or not. What does death feel like? Would it hurt and scare us or could people be at peace when meeting whatever is next? And how difficult must it be for the angels to watch humans try so hard to save other humans’ lives?

For the many plot holes and the overly dramatic/creepy nature of City of Angels, it gets just one Meg. However, in an angelic revival, it gets an additional Cage for having the redeeming quality of being the most physically attractive I have seen him.

When Harry Met Sally

What I loved most about this movie is that I could buy it. I could legitimately feel the depression and desperation. It’s cute, yeah, but also, it’s realistic in a way that romcoms normally aren’t.  

You have your person with hard and fast rules, how Harry would never be friends with a woman, and then of course he ends up breaking those rules. You have your early-thirties woman crying to her best friend, who is a male, “I’m gonna be FORTY!” He reminds her that’s eight years away. 

I loved Sally’s best friend, Marie, who can’t understand why she broke up with her ex. “You had someone to go in public with! You had a date on national holidays!” And isn’t that what we’re all looking for in life? Seriously though, national holidays are some of the loneliest times of the year, and I’m not just talking about Christmas. I’m talking about Labor Day! Then she busts out a Rolodex of potential suitors. I felt like I was a kid again, back with my parents who picked an era and never moved beyond it.

Then of course you have the ways the two partners handle the grief of their past relationships. Harry is admittedly depressed about the loss of his wife. He struggles with the fact that they had such a bond, but then fought over who got to keep the dishes and the importance of writing your name on everything for the inevitable end. Being the foils to Harry and Sally, Marie tells Jess that she’ll never want his ugly wagon wheel table and you get a sense of their decision to commit and it is chortle-worthy. Meanwhile, Harry squares off with Sally, who does go on dates with people, but never lets them get anywhere. I have been there, going on dates but not letting anything get anywhere because of how much I missed my ex at the time. It was all typical and maybe funny if you were looking in.

Nora Ephron wrote When Harry Met Sally with a channeled energy of a single thirties woman who doesn’t want to be single. Some of this came from a real place, I just know it. I feel the frantic nature of this film and its a familiar blanket to be wrapped in.  

Finishing the story, the last scene on New Year’s Eve exhibits such perfect timing. Harry didn’t get there and share a kiss at the stroke of midnight, instead they argued on New Year’s Eve much like Marie and Jess about the wagon wheel table, but this time Harry and Sally commit despite everything. Sally exclaims, “And I hate you, Harry! I really hate you,” as she chokes back tears and feels love. She didn’t fall into his arms just waiting for him to come save her. No, love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah, much how it is in real life. It’s just the best for a movie that is a deserved classic. I give this movie three Meg’s and two Crystal’s. 

1 thought on “My Tryst with the Queen of Romcom, Meg Ryan”

  1. I may be biased, but I loved reading this. It is crazy to go through her movie history and see that it was just romcom after romcom, many I have never even heard of.

    I think Cage today would make for a great romcom, I am not even joking. I will die on this hill.


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