1989: When Harry Met Sally… Frank, Jack and Susie

According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Driving Miss Daisy was the best film of 1989. These days, however, it routinely shows up on Worst Best Picture Winners lists. I did watch Driving Miss Daisy once in the early 90s and wasn’t impressed. It’s likely I was too young to fully appreciate what it had to offer. I am curious to revisit the film, twenty seven years after the cinematic dust has settled.
wolfish-harryBut what of my other memories of 1989? Does Do the Right Thing remain Spike Lee’s best film? Is my memory betraying me, or was Major League better than Field of Dreams. Is The Burbs as funny as I once thought? and was The Fabulous Baker Boys really superior to When Harry Met Sally…?  I’m curious.The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)There are two reasons why I return to The Fabulous Baker Boys. One, fondness for 1989; two, Michelle Pfeiffer. An essentially ageless rom-com The Fabulous Baker Boys has become a landmark of the time, earning a treasured place in my affections because of nostalgia for my youth. Nostalgia can be a curse. People change. Tastes change. But the films remain the same.
Same Old SusieAs Susie Diamond, Pfeiffer made critics, and this fan fall in love with her. She steals every scene she’s in, and leaves you pining for her during the other scenes. This said, the chemistry between Jeff and Beau Bridges is intriguing, forming a trio of flawed underdogs you can’t help but root for.
Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer)It’s a tug-of-war for me when I think about the best actress of 1989. On one hand lies Michelle, in the movie that made her the biggest female film star in the world, and on the other hand Meg Ryan: sweet, sexy and rip-roaringly funny in When Harry Met Sally… Although the argument has rumbled on as to who actually turned in a better performance in 1989, the battle between these two classics doesn’t end there.
wistful-sallyOf the three films that I re-watched over the last couple of days, When Harry Met Sally… has been the one I’ve watched least, so I always forget how much fun it is. The supporting cast are all absolutely brilliant.
yes-yes-yesI still don’t like Billy Crystal, I doubt I ever will. I do miss Meg more than ever though. Is it any wonder that Hollywood milked her charm for all it was worth, making her the go-to female romantic lead of the 1990s? She’s never been funnier, more lovable or more believable.
Makin WhoopeeSo years later, which movie is my favourite? When Harry Met Sally… is charming, with a heartwarming finale. The Fabulous Baker Boys is a funnier, more sophisticated comedy of romance, in which the the interweaving of three lives is explored, rather than the question of whether or not two people will end up together.annie-hallesqueFor me this choice is one that I could go back and forth on depending on when you ask me. In the end, Jack and Susie look like the winners. They may be a match made in hell, but watching them is movie heaven.

susie-and-sally-2Any thoughts on 1989 in film? Is either of these your favourite?



Filed under Retrospective

20 responses to “1989: When Harry Met Sally… Frank, Jack and Susie

  1. I have to admit something…the reason I’m not a big fan of When Harry met Sally is…Billy Crystal. I’m sorry. I’ve tried…and tried…but I just can’t feel for the relationship because of him.
    As for The Fabulous Baker Boys…you’ve hit the nail on the head in your review. And I really, really need to watch this again – it has been over 10 years since I’ve seen it.

    • Thank you! I watched this movie because of this discussion. I could never watch because of… Billy Crystal.
      I watched the movie. His character is so obnoxious that I couldn’t spend half an hour talking to a man like that.
      So many clichés on his lines… that’s not his fault. “Men can’t be a friend of a woman… blah blah blah”… was the first line that pissed me off…
      And the thing kept going till the end.
      I didn’t like the movie, the screenplay, the music…. but Meg Ryan is always worthy. I like her. Just can’t understand why someone injected so many don’t know what on her cheeks. She never had cheeks like that.
      This doctor is horrid.

  2. Fine look at the year, Paul. Hmm…DRIVING MISS DAISY was safe for the vaunted Academy. Not too controversial like BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY and not too whimsical as FIELD OF DREAMS (I like MAJOR LEAGUE, but it doesn’t displace the feelings FoD generates, even all these years later). Hard to pick between WHEN HARRY MET SALLY (especially with its superb supporting cast) and THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS and that storyline you highlight. Michelle and Meg at the seeming height of their powers. I’m sure if I watch each again, whatever was last seen is going to get my vote, no matter the order. 😉

  3. Great writing as always! –Paul

  4. The Billy Crystal character may be offputting in the beginning, but part of the movie’s magic is that he evolves into someone less obnoxious and more loveable. Yes, he and Meg Ryan have great chemistry in the film. I’m a little sad typing this as the costars Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby have passed on. He was a fabulous character actor and she was our generation’s very own Princess. 😦 Miss you always Carrie!
    Now, to compare the two, much as I love WHMS, there are few, maybe no, movies that compare in my lifetime to the Fabulous Baker Boys. It’s just too delicious and too heart stopping as all three leads are in total command of their craft. I can watch WHMS over and over for the comedy genius, I can watch BB over and over for the life changing elements.

  5. I guess out of that lot I’d have to say The Fabulous Baker Boys was my favorite, and still is on the top of the list for that era. I loved your commentary on this Paul!

  6. Paul S,

    The Oscars chose Driving Miss Daisy, it was a good choice, but it would be so interesting to have “Endurance Awards” 25 years later. I kinda think FBB would be a huge contender if not the overall winner. I think Field of Dreams has some holding power as well. When Harry Met Sally is an American film classic in several respects…yes Crystal is a schmuck who doesn’t deserve Meg, but who does deserve Meg? It’s hard not to root for Billy’s character as he finally begins to grow up in the second half of the film. If the endurance awards had categories for Grit and Soul – FBB, Whimsy and Wonder – FOD, Ingenuity and Spark – WHMS…another few categories might be fun too.

    I think films like Batman and The Abyss become dated quickly by the technology used in production, but have good stories and actors that are still interesting to watch work with what they had. I really liked The Dead Poets Society then and now…watching Robin Williams and Ethan Hawke awaken in their roles is stirring, even if some 80’s cheese slices in here and there.


  7. Great post 🙂 For me, their are a lot of great 1989 films to choose from. Distant Voices Still Lives, Do the Right Thing, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Always, Johnny Handsome and countless others 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as usual 🙂

  8. You’ve hit upon something deep here and endlessly debabteable. NO! Not the likability of Billy Crystal? He’s great. 🙂 No how films age, how memory plays tricks, how nostalgia forms bias and how a great film cannot be rewatchable and so therefore is a watchable film a classic? So many questions with no real definitive answers. My two cents. I think babyboomers love Harry Met Sally in a way I cannot. I admire the film and maybe admire it more now that I’m middle aged but I much more enjoyed City Slickers for example. The Fabulous Baker Boys rarely struck me as a comedy or a film I wanted to go back and re-watch. But it moved deeply with its themes of talents and pursuing dreams. I also agree it made Pfeiffer a star. Finally I will just say this I still love Driving Miss Daisy and Do the Right Thing. Interestingly enough the two have become an example for most critics to cite the Academy awarding the less antagonistic film and the other film going on to become the remembered classic. I like the idea of endurance awards but of course we already have them. It’s us. We award Endurance Trophies to the films we remain in love with.

  9. When Harry met Sally’s a blast! I love Dead Poet’s Society so that’s up there for me. The Little Mermaid – for kicking off the Disney Renaissance – and Indiana Jones too come to mind

  10. I know I enjoyed “When Harry Met Sally,” although the restaurant scene is the only one I can still remember nowadays. I’ve never seen “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” but I always meant to because I like Jeff Bridges. I can’t believe it was made in 1989! I thought it was much more recent that that. I think my favorite film from 1989 (from the quick look at a list I just saw on Google) is probably “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” – a bit surprising really since I was 22 that year, so probably a little too old for it. Ah well! 🙂

  11. I really want to see The Fabulous Baker Boys again, it’s been too long.

  12. Great post! “Driving Miss Daisy” is a HORRIBLE choice for Best Picture, and “Both “Harry” AND “Baker Boys” are terrific – “Baker” especially holds up, while “Harry” is hilariously “of its time” to a degree….

  13. I haven’t seen The Fabulous Baker Boys, and this is the first review I’ve ever read of it. I think I’d better get on the ball – it sounds terrific!

    As for Harry/Sally, I love that movie, including Billy Crystal. I think I’ve seen it a million times, and I plan to see it again soon.

    Really enjoyed this post!

  14. Hi Paul. Fabulous Baker Boys is my favourite of the two, and is one of my all time favourite films. Great to see Jeff and Beau acting together(wish they would make another film together). Michelle is fantastic in this, before seeing this I had no idea she could sing! I was pleasantly surprised by her singing voice. This flick is great fun, romantic, funny and moving, what’s not to like? As for the couples, I like both very much and think in both cases they are the best fits for each other. Maddy

    • Welcome Maddy. I love Beau and Jeff and Michelle was a smoky sensation in The Fabulous Baker Boys. Her Oscar loss still stings, especially at this time of year!

  15. I’ve never been a fan of romance, but I think I should definitely add The Fabulous Baker Boys to the list. Also, just saying, you’re a really good writer. I’m gonna have to add more movies to my never ending watchlist.

  16. I really like When Harry Met Sally (I don’t mind Billy Crystal at all) and wrote very briefly about it here https://whatisannwatching.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/a-few-lines-on-a-few-films/ However, I have never seen The Fabulous Baker Boys, despite really liking Michelle Pfieffer. I will check it out soon, thanks for the recommendation.

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