Never again will I be able to believe in happy endings, fate or falling in love over the age of 30. Gone are my dreams of a Billy Crystal-Meg Ryan reunion, of a Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan reunion, of Meg Ryan reclaiming her role as America’s Sweetheart.
Meg Ryan is going to have to face it: Nora Ephron’s death might be the final nail in her career’s coffin.
Even all you dudes out there who swear you only saw “Sleepless in Seattle” because your wife/girlfriend/sister wanted to see it have to admit: Ephron gave us hope in a way that few filmmakers ever have. Sure, it was a sappy, sugary, “no way do I really believe Bill Pullman would have been that nice about Meg Ryan ditching him to run off to the Empire State Building and Tom Hanks” kind of hope, but you can’t watch an Ephron movie and not smile at least a few times.
I mean seriously: Billy Crystal. Meg Ryan. That diner scene. “I’ll have what she’s having.”
And “You’ve Got Mail”? Ephron might have single-handedly helped AOL last a little longer in a digital, non-dial-up world. I’m not going to lie: When I log into my Gmail account, part of me secretly wishes I heard that slightly robotic, kind of creepy guy’s voice announcing that someone out there in the virtual world loved me enough to send me a message. And that Tom Hanks would fall in love with me and woo me with his millions of books and his dog and his sailboat ... but that’s beside the point.
And I know, I know, Ephron wrote and directed and produced a ton of other movies. She was a successful female writer and director in Hollywood at a time when women in Hollywood were just expected to stand there and look pretty. And yes, “Heartburn” — based on her real-life marriage to Carl “All the President’s Men” Bernstein — wasn’t exactly a delightful rom-com romp like “Sleepless in Seattle” or even a feel-good caper like “My Blue Heaven,” but it was real in a way that other movies just aren’t.
Ephron represents some of my favorite 1990s memories, and some of my favorite, “I wish they would make more movies like so-and-so” actors. Tom Hanks (obviously). Meg Ryan. Steve Martin. Dan Aykroyd. Diane Keaton. Even New York City became a beloved, familiar character in her movies, and it became the New York City that I wish I could visit or even live in.
(But Nora, in tribute to your wit, sarcasm and realism, I’m going to forgive you “Michael,” “Bewitched” and even “Julie & Julia,” which I really wanted to like but just couldn’t. But don’t worry; you more than made up for those missteps with “Mixed Nuts,” “My Blue Heaven” and any and all pairings of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.)
So thank you, Nora, for teaching me about love, life after 30 and the meaning of acronyms such as “H and G” (“hi and goodbye”) and for giving me nightmares at the age of 12 of what sex would be like (“In the movies, women are always scratching up the men’s back and screaming and stuff when they’re having sex.”)
It’s true: As Rosie O’Donnell’s character told Meg Ryan in “Sleepless,” “You don’t want to be in love! You want to be in love in a movie.” But only if it’s a Nora Ephron movie, and only if Tom Hanks is waiting somewhere in the wings.