Even the most attractive, most talented actors in Hollywood need good scripts. Screenwriters are the people whose thoughts coalesce on the page and are then translated onto the big screen by the actors and directors. Tinseltown lost one of its finest writers this week when Nora Ephron passed away at the age of 71.
What Ephron was really adept at was taking the film genre of the "romantic comedy," which is all too easy to write formulaic, dull scripts for, and elevating it into a truly great art form. Ephron's films set the bar and broke the mold time and again. She had a real knack for understanding how characters interact, and how to tell the story in such a way that makes the viewer invest in the characters from the first frame.
In honor of Nora's life and her body of work, here are a few of her most memorable films.
"When Harry Met Sally..." (1989) - Even people who aren't fans of romantic comedies love this film. Some might think it's Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal's chemistry, or Rob Reiner's impeccable direction that made this film so great. But while those things are certainly key factors in the films success, at the heart of the film is Ephron's wonderful story about a couple's long journey towards finding true love and happiness together.
"Sleepless in Seattle" (1993) - If all Ephron had written in her career were "When Harry Met Sally..." and this film, she'd have still been considered a master at her craft. This time the film stars Ryan and the inimitable Tom Hanks as two people who fall in love with each other despite not meeting face to face until the very last scene in the film. It's a testament to the film's script that it can tell a story that keeps the main characters apart throughout nearly all of the film, and yet the audience can easily buy into them living happily ever after.
"My Blue Heaven" (1990) - Nora was sneaky with the romance in this comedy. The film stars Steve Martin as a former mobster that Rick Moranis is protecting before a trial. The romance between Moranis and Joan Cusack's develops almost as an ancillary part of the script, and yet it's still very much an important piece of the plot's arc.
"Julie & Julia" (2009) - In her final script that saw production, Nora told a love story of a different variety; it was about discovering yourself and loving what you find. Starring Amy Adams as Julie and Meryl Streep as the late Julia Child, the script is a work of art, telling two separate and yet somehow intertwined stories of two very different women in two very different eras seamlessly. It was easy to follow both sides of the story, and it never felt contrived; a testament, ultimately, to the writing prowess Ephron possessed.
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