Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Nora Ephron and the modern Romance.

True Magic

Over on Facebook they are talking about Nora Ephron.  That clip from When Harry Met Sally is circulating.
You know the one.  

If you know and love the film (aka Movie) you will have quoted from that scene at least once in your lifetime.  I know she wrote other stuff (Silkwood) but this is about the light and fluffy love stuff.

Noted romance author Sarah Morgan mentioned loving three of Nora's most well known romances.  She asks which of them is our favourite and I started to answer.  And then couldn't decide. I love each of them for differing reasons. But when you think about it they are sort of the same reasons. 

1.  They are about people you relate to and the casting is brilliant, both leads and supporting cast.  Everyone relates to Meg Ryan in whatever guise she assumes. Which mostly seems to be slightly ditzy, naive, girl next door.  Tom Hanks?  What is there not to love about this guy who manages to be a top Hollywood actor with that face.  Even in his early B-Grade attempts he was lovable and the characters he plays are almost invariably loveable. (I say almost because there may be a film I haven't seen where he plays an Axe Murderer).  Actually I take that back.  He would be a loveable Axe Murderer.

2.  Witty script writing. If you are as old as I am, and older, you would remember a time when you complained about the demise of Wit in Film. You would reminisce about those old Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn's in which the protagonists were clever and well read and could carry off witty badinage in lieu of hot and heavy love scenes.  Then came Nora Ephron and we forgot there had ever been a time when light and clever romance was too low brow for Hollywood.

3.  Referencing.  This is the bit where Nora made us feel really clever.  Like the scene in Sleepless in Seattle where the girls are sobbing over 'An Affair to Remember' and the guys are screwing up their noses and suddenly getting all emotional over the ending of 'The Dirty Dozen.'  Not only do we 'get' the reference but Nora also 'gets' us.  There is this mutual understanding thing happening between us the audience and the scriptwriter.  She does it again with 'You've Got Mail' with 'The Godfather' references. 'Go to the Mattresses.'  It's the only quote I know for sure from The Godfather. And what was with the whole documentary feel of 'When Harry Met Sally' with those cute little romantic vignettes of 'real' couples?  Just a bit of art-house for us low brows.

So you are thinking, 'why the hell is she writing about Nora Ephron films on a category romance blog?'  I got that word for word didn't I?

It's because Nora Ephron can teach us wannabe (and published) authors a whole lot of things about characterisation, story arcs, pacing, dialogue (especially dialogue).  Whatever!

Because her lighter screen fare are really category romances. Feel good reads that are supposed to engage us, make us love the protagonists and bat for them to reach their happy ending.  Yes the happy ending and feel good stuff are guaranteed.

They are like a spectrum with 'Harry Met Sally' a classic Friends to Lovers story.  Then you have 'You've Got Mail' where they fall in love over the internet while not being really certain of how the friendship will develop in real life. You know the trope.  Meet, hate each other, fall in love.  Ooops!

Then Sleepless in Seattle.  Is it really possible to fall in love without really meeting each other?  The sound of a voice, the touch of a hand.  Magic!   It just chokes me up every time.  And this is the true magic of these stories. The true magic of any story that will have you watching them over and over again and still laughing and crying and having that emotional connection.

And that is the true magic of the written word.  When a book is on someone's 'keeper' shelf.  A book that someone will turn to again and again over the years because there is something inside those covers that takes them to a magical place, to laugh, to cry, to care about people who only exist inside our imagination.  Because somehow the writer has made a connection through the written word with the heart and soul of the reader.

That is the legacy that Nora Ephron leaves behind.  It is a legacy all writers can aspire to.

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