One of the many sharp and funny things Nora Ephron once said is "I always read the last page of a book first, so that if I die before I finish, I'll know how it turned out."
That saying turned poignant when Ephron passed away on Tuesday, but it was also fitting for her career. The last page of her film book was Julie & Julia (my review) a delightfully entertaining showcase for two of our brightest actresses, Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. But it was also a marvel of an adaptation with Ephron cannily stitching together the books by the titular characters. Sure, one could argue that the Julia parts or more interesting than the Juliee parts, but if the movie were only about Julia, it would not have been as interesting, I don't think. If you want to show someone what made Ephron Ephron, start at her final film.
But that's just one example of how smart and savvy her writing was. Her best work is still the screenplay for Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally ... - which is infinitely more savvy than any of that Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus stuff. I love how Ephron made the man the hopeless romantic in the end:
I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.
Heck, Ephron even had the class to admit that the most famous line in the script - I'll have what she's having" - was actually Billy Crystal's idea.
I was also fond of Ephron's You've Got Mail, her remake of The Shop Around the Corner/In the Good Old Summertime. Sure, it's saccharine and predictable and it's now as quaint as AOL has become, but that's part of its charm. I can't claim it's as good as the two earlier films, but it fares pretty well in comparison, which is more than can be said of many a remake.
Maybe it's that I'm a romantic myself. Or maybe it was that Ephron gave "chick flicks" a good name. One of my colleagues once complained to me, "You never like any of my girly movies!" I can't remember what I said at the time, but now I would say, "I would if Nora Ephron made more of them."