“Anyway, I think the question of Sleepless in Seattle or One Fine Day is an easy one for you Paul. I’m more interested in whether you lean toward Harry and Sally…or Frankie and Johnny? “
After spending New Year’s Eve in the company of Harry and Sally, I caught up with Frankie and Johnny yesterday, for the first time in many years, and was smitten all over again. I love to watch films of that ilk, but sadly they don’t seem to be made any more. I’m talking about those New York pictures featuring ordinary people just trying to get through life, one day at a time.When Harry Met Sally stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan and chronicles a decade in the lives and relationships of the aforementioned Harry and Sally. From their first meeting when they carpool together from the University of Chicago to New York, through several different relationships and chance encounters, before finally becoming a couple together. Frankie and Johnny is the tale of two lonely characters played by Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino, who are just trying to get by in life and make a living. Johnny (Pacino) is an ex-con who secures a job as a cook at a diner, where he meets and falls in love with waitress Frankie (Pfeiffer). He’s convinced they were soul mates before they ever met and despite her reluctance, nothing is going to deter him in his pursuit of her. Al Pacino plays Johnny in a way you rarely see. He still has all the answers and a degree of confidence, but he also displays a needy and vulnerable side, and his understated acting provides an intriguing contrast to the brashness of Billy Crystal’s Harry in When Harry Met Sally. Playing opposite Pacino Michelle Pfeiffer gives a tour de force performance as Frankie, a woman who’s comfortable working by day and then sitting at home on her own in the evenings. When Johnny pursues her, she resists and fights her feelings, basically for the whole movie. Pfeiffer’s performance is beautiful. She gives so much depth to her interpretation conveying the conflict and fear within her character through her eyes and her body language. She’s fighting Johnny, she’s fighting herself, she’s fighting everything and it makes for powerful viewing. In fact, of this quartet of accomplished performers, Michelle vies with Meg Ryan for the ultimate accolade of best-in-show.Meg who was always one of the most compelling of actresses is absolutely radiant here, giving a perfectly pitched performance as the high-maintenance Sally.There’s an impressive, almost alarming quality to the innocence she exudes here. Every line and every expression is perfectly tuned to her character, When Harry Met Sally contains one of her best performances ever, but even though Meg’s combination with Billy forms one of modern cinema’s great romantic pairings, I personally cared more for the union of Pfeiffer and Pacino. Theirs isn’t simply a story about a cook and a waitress falling in love. It’s a depiction of people’s inner fears and hesitations about falling in love, and starting and sharing a new life together. You can relate to their feelings, and Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer ooze class. The kiss Frankie and Johnny share, with the flower market as its backdrop, was the stand out moment of these movies for me. It’s so touching to see the woman who would rather watch videotapes and eat ice cream at home, finally letting her guard down to embrace the possibilities of life.Apparently nobody wants to watch films like these any more and that saddens me, because Frankie and Johnny and When Harry Met Sally are filled with truth, honesty, and great performances from some of our finest actors.
That’s reality. Whether it’s Harry and Sally or Frankie and Johnny. It’s a universal story that’s happening right now, to someone, somewhere in this world.
Happy New Year!