Study Guide

When Harry Met Sally Director

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Rob Reiner

When Harry Met Sally quite simply wouldn't exist if it weren't for Rob Reiner.

Rob's Role

How's that? Allow us to lay it out for you.

  1. The movie was his idea. He pitched the idea for a movie about two friends of the opposite sex who avoid sleeping together because they know it would ruin the friendship. And then they sleep together. And it ruins the friendship… that is, until it becomes something more.
  2. It was the first movie produced by his fledgling production studio, Castle Rock Entertainment. No Reiner, no Castle Rock, no baby fish mouth.
  3. The movie is based on Reiner's life as a recently divorced, single man living in the city and enduring a series of disastrous romantic relationships. No Reiner divorce, no Harry Burns.
  4. Reiner's the one who came up with the famous "I'll have what she's having" line. And the woman who said it? She's his mother.

Reiner's Repertoire

When Harry Met Sally fits Reiner's trademark style—that is, if you can say that he has one. His movies range widely in genre, from mockumentaries like This is Spinal Tap to coming-of-age flicks like Stand by Me to dramatic thrillers like A Few Good Men. You'd be forgiven if you had some trouble figuring out what all these movies have in common.

Leave it to the experts, as we always say. As William Goldman, an old collaborator of Reiner's, puts it, "There's a certain flintiness to Rob's films. They're funny, but they're not simpy."

Or perhaps Reiner himself puts it best when he says, "I make movies about people that live on Earth. Nobody gets exploded, nobody is running around, chasing anything. Basically, they're people in rooms talking." And if you think about it, that's really what all these movies—This is Spinal Tap, Stand By Me, A Few Good Men—have in common. That's also probably why Reiner is known to work with screenwriters like Ephron and Aaron Sorkin, who are known for their sharp, witty dialogue.

A Final Note

Visually, When Harry Met Sally looks an awful lot like a Woody Allen movie. Lots of shots of New York City sidewalks, skylines, and eateries. Reiner's visual style isn't all that remarkable mainly because the movie does not require it to be. This is a small movie about two people and their many conversations. No need for fancy framing or stylish shots. Reiner wants your focus to be on Harry and Sally, so that's where he directs it.

But, if you look closely, there's something to all those shots of the duo. As film critic Jesse David Fox asserts, "In every scene involving Harry and Sally, the physical distance between the two in the frame reflects where they are emotionally." When Harry and Sally are emotionally distant, like when they're having a huge fight at Jess and Marie's wedding, they're far apart in the shot, taking up opposite ends of the screen. But just a few scenes before, as Harry comforts a crying Sally, they're closer than ever, both in the shot and in their relationship.

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