Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Ben Nadel at the New York ColdFusion User Group (Jan. 2008) with:

Nora Ephron vs. Meg Ryan: What Is That We Love?

Posted by Ben Nadel

For years, I really loved Meg Ryan. I still like her, of course, but when I was younger, I definitely held her on some sort of a pedestal. She stood out from the other actresses of her time as being just fun and adorable and super lovable. And for years, I just assumed it was all due to her inherent goodness. But like any actor, she's also made some less than fantastic movies. Films such as Addicted to Love, Proof of Life, Joe Versus the Volcano, and In the Land of Women were decent movies, but they just weren't what I'd call, "classic Meg."

 
 
 
 
 
 
Meg Ryan - The Ultimate Jeans And T-Shirt Girl. 
 
 
 

Then last week, I saw that Sleepless in Seattle was on TV; and, as I'd never seen it as an adult and remember hating it as a child, I figured I'd DVR it and watch it over the weekend (what can I say - I'm a big softy for romantic movies). It turned out to be an adorable, sweet movie with fantastic dialog and such memorable quotes as:

Well, it was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were suppose to be together... and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home... only to no home I'd ever known... I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like... magic.

Needless to say, it was "classic Meg" (although the quote above is Tom Hanks).

Then, on Sunday, I was in a rather romantic mood and felt like watching When Harry Met Sally - perhaps one of the best movies ever made. So I settled into bed, hit play, and laid back. And that's when I saw it, in the opening credits, that the movie was written by Nora Ephron. While I couldn't place the name, it sounded so familiar. I thought perhaps it was the same writer as Sleepless in Seattle. A quick check on the IMDB confirmed this... and much more.

As it turned out, Nora Ephron is the writer behind the best "classic Meg" movies that I love:

  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Sleepless In Seattle
  • You've Got Mail

She's even written some other non-Meg favorites such as My Blue Heaven and Mixed Nuts. So this got me thinking - do I really like Meg Ryan? Or do I like Nora Ephron's Meg Ryan?

To answer this question, I guess I have to really think about what it is in Meg Ryan that I find so delicious. A long time ago, a friend of mine defined her as the ultimate "jeans and t-shirt" girl. And, while she rarely wears jeans and t-shirts in her movies, I know exactly what he meant. She evokes a sort of comfort in you and a coziness that might be evoked by an old girlfriend trotting around in a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. But where does this feeling come from? What precipitates it?

Based on the fact that it's decidedly the Nora Ephron version of Meg Ryan that I find so appealing, I have to imagine that it is just a little bit physical and mostly behavioral; something about the way that Nora Ephron makes her talk and act is what makes her so attractive. But, what is it about her personality in these movies that is so gosh-darned inviting? I can't put my finger on it. I'll have to put some more time into tearing it down before I can fully evaluate it. Hopefully more to come later in the comments.

From a purely scientific standpoint, I find this situation to be fascinating. It shows you have effective behavior is in influencing those around you. It really puts significance behind so many of the things discussed in books like The Magic of Thinking Big and The Four Agreements.



Reader Comments

First of all, Joe vs The Volcano is a CLASSIC. Love that flick. Second of all, what about Top Gun? Though her part was small, I thought she was good as Goose's wife.

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@Eric,

I think I've only seen it once. Perhaps I'll give it another viewing. I just remember the whole islander culture to be ridiculous. As far as Top Gun, I honestly don't remember much about that movie :)

@Andy,

Agreed!

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You just listed my top three "guaranteed to make me cry happy tears" movies. Thanks for posting this all have to look up Nora Ephron.

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I'm right there with you on Meg, however I loved Joe vs the Volcano; I thought the critics got it all wrong.

As far as movies go, often the main actor gets credit for something that is really the Auteur, the person who's vision is being created in film, especially if it's a big name actor.

A friend pointed this out to me one day and from then on, I always try and determine who is the real inspiration behind the films I like. Often I find it is the same as other films i really like.

Some of my favorite auteurs are Nora Ephron, Luc Besson, Baz Luhrmann, James Cameron, The Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino.

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@Eric: So true. Joe v Volcano is awesome! Underrated film ... silly and cute.

@Ben: I have to give the nod to Meg over Nora. No matter how good the writing/directing, it takes someone as 'cute' as Meg to pull those characters off (no knock on Nora's skillz!).

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Joe vs. the Volcano has the very same starting point as Office Space. Both have beaten down office workers who are burned out with stale, ridiculous office culture. Joe - just goes a different direction and takes that same character outside the office to get him out of his rut - in an admittedly silly 80s comedy kind of way.

If you can accept the over the top comedy and appreciate the underlying message it's a great movie with some cute lines and a very adorable Meg Ryan. To me the comedy is no more over the top than "Hitchhikers Guide". Both of them intend to communicate a deeper message under the zany humor.

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@Chris,

Yeah, those are some great writer / directors.

@Craig,

I'm not saying that Meg Ryan doesn't have a lot to do with it - she's definitely a super cutie. But, I think the personality that Nora Ephron gives her characters is really what makes her shine.

@Mike,

Oh yeah, I forgot about that one. Definitely a cute movie. I'm also a huge Kevin Kline fan.

@Dan,

Hey, I'm definitely happy to give a movie another go - I love movies.

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So much hate for Joe Vs The Volcano. I still love that move after many repeated viewings.

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I am guilty of the Meg crush while growing up too.

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A few other classic "Meg" movies:

I.Q. (Einstein's niece opposite Tim Robbins)
Kate & Leopold
City of Angels

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@Steve,

Oh man, I forgot about some of those. IQ was definitely a cute movie, no doubt. I think I've only seen City of Angels once, but I don't remember much about it. I think I remember nick cage in it more than I remember her. That said, I wouldn't mind giving IQ another viewing.

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I love Meg Ryan! I used to try to get her haircuts all the time but mine never looked as good as hers :(

I love When Harry met Sally, that's the kind of movie that you wish would happen to you, like meeting that person who happens to be wonderful but you don't really notice. You continue to move on with your life and then one day they meet again and realize they are "the one" of course these things usually never happen in real life, but it can maybe.

Anyhow, I being a girl love romantic movies and Meg is definitely on my top 10 list of female actresses. When her and Tom Hanks make a movie together it's definitely "like magic" you believe they are in love.

Great movies!

My dreamboat! this is why ;)

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@Ben,

So the next obvious part of the test has to be watching other Nora Ephron movies to see whether female leads who are *not* Meg Ryan come across as irresistibly cute. That would give some clue to the other side of Ephron's influence on the Meg equation :)

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@Ben - I LOVE MEG RYAN! It ain't just you. :-) I am SO glad that @Mike brought up French Kiss, because that is one of my FAVORITE MOVIES OF ALL TIME. Now, don't you wish I would get that excited over ColdFusion? I do, I do...I just don't show it. Ok, back onto the Meg Ryan movies. That line you quoted which Tom Hanks said, when I read it, it almost brought tears to my eyes...literally...again! I love that line. That movie had some great classic lines. And how romantic is it, the idea of falling in love with a total stranger whom you know next to nothing about...you hear his story and his voice, and you fall in love with him. How romantic is that? But the thing is, in real life, if you went trekking across the country to see them, you would probably get arrested for stalking. lol And the thing is too, that I would actually do something like that. I mean, not go see a guy who didn't ask me, or just show up without a guy knowing or whatever, but if I met a random guy and he and I had some things in common and I liked him enough, I would do it. A guy I met who lived in Las Vegas asked me to come out to Las Vegas to meet him, and I did. Nothing happened, but that's ok...it was all about the experience. It's who I am, totally. It was very Sleepless-in-Seattle like. Also, the jeans-and-t-shirt thing you were talking about @Ben, there was a very specific part in French Kiss that reminded me of that. I don't remember if she was wearing jeans, but I remember she was wearing a tank top, I believe. And they were talking about her walk and the way she walked and she was eating icecream. I think that's so much of what it is...she has a nice, easy-going gait as that character, and when you observe it, it makes you think you could just walk up beside her, stroll along her side, and have a nice comfortable conversation with her with no pauses in it--it puts you at ease. And I think it is her happy-go-lucky nature in that movie, too, that is so darn attractive. It makes her very likeable. And her vulnerability...the way she allows herself to fall for someone so completely. The passion with which she pursues what she perceives as still being hers. I could go on about this movie. lol Her character in that movie, particular, NAILED the likeability quality. For men, it catches you off-guard, because she seems so easy to get along with, you can just get lost in her and end up falling head-over-heels in love with her without initially realizing that you were taking a risk to begin with. For women, when you see her character, you can identify with her--that could very well be you. (For girls) she's someone you can talk to and not feel the least bit threatened. Definitely likeable.

@Jazzy: funny you should bring her haircuts up. There have been times when I looked at her haircut and thought, "only meg ryan could pull that off". :-) That's another attractive thing about her, though...she can look good in any haircut. I loved her with long hair, and at that time could never imagine it short. When I saw her in short hair, she looked so cute, so likeable, it was like she pulled that off, too! There are a lot of women who can really only rock one hairdo, or one "type" of hair do...be it long, short, wavy, straight, layered, not layered....you get the picture.

When Harry Met Sally...love that movie. That has happened to me, actually, but the ending to THAT movie (my situation) has not happened yet. :-) We shall see if it is a happy ending or an ending that I learn and grow from. :-)

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@Anna I just finished watching Sleepless in Seattle. The whole time, the movie references MAGIC. I never realized it before that, that is probably were I got that term from when referencing, my first encounter with someone I was deeply in love with (maybe still am, not sure though) anyway, when I first saw him, it was MAGIC! I remember feeling like I had seen him before, like I knew him, it was the strangest feeling, one that I only have felt with people I ended up with. Anyway, this story wasn't as successful I'm afraid :( however, I for sure will never forget that magical moment. I almost think he felt it too, I could tell by the way time sort of stopped for us in that moment and we stared into each others eyes.

I'm a bit emotional tonight, as it is raining in NYC and I just love the rain, I left my curtain open just to see it. I am going to watch When Harry Met Sally next. I wish you luck with your friend. I hope for you, much love.

Sincerely
Jazzy :)

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You can't forget French Kiss, which stars Meg Ryan in the Nora-esque role, but is not written by Ephron.
She also actually wears Jeans and a t-shirt in this one!

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