When Billy Crystal met Debra Winger

I have watched When Harry Met Sally way too many times to count, from back when there were only a few VHS tapes I owned, and I didn't bore so easily. So I have a good idea of the situations and dialog of that film. And, as I watch Forget Paris, I am reminded over and over of that film.

We start, of course, with Billy Crystal, this time a professional basketball referee named Mickey instead of a political consultant. We do see Crystal at his job here, unlike that other film - but honestly, a political consultant is going to be fairly uninteresting to watch.

In exchange for Meg Ryan as Sally, Forget Paris features Debra Winger as Ellen. Winger reminds me a lot of Joan Cusack for some reason. While Crystal is largely himself in both roles, Ellen is a more easy going and lighthearted sort than Sally.

Where the similarities really creep up on me is in the framing device for the film. Harry and Sally was a sequence of time displaced episodes framed by interviews of various married couples telling how they met. Here, the mechanism is more complicated. A group of friends is meeting for dinner in celebration of a completely different couple getting married. As people arrive, they tell another part of the story of Mickey and Ellen for some reason, rather than the current celebrants. We are continually told how implausbile it would be that these two could still be together. With Harry and Sally, the couple in question is the last to be interviewed. Here, the story is capped by the surprising, reunited-just-that-day arrival of our two lovebirds. This circle of storytelling is interesting, but ultimately bogs down from all that's going on. This group of characters seems important, but we never get to learn much about them - they don't have their own say, really, about themselves.

The content of the story is much different, actually. Instead of watching how two people become a couple, we watch two struggle with being a couple. There are similar themes, but somehow I am left with the notion that the relationship is simply an up-and-down one, and I don't know - have simply not been convinced - that it's really changed that hugely by the end.

This is a comedy, of course (Billy Crystal seems to be a synonym for the word). Funny things happen as their relationship progresses - sometimes simply odd occurrances that could have been on any sort of skit-based show, but more often from character and situation, as it should be. I find the humor in When Harry Met Sally to be almost completely in line with the story.

I may be doomed. The similarities between the two films loom at me and I find it hard to consider Forget Paris on its own terms. Still, I hope this review is helpful, at least to those who know that other film all too well as I do.

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