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"You made a woman 'meow?'"
on March 16, 2004
4.5 stars. Rob Reiner continues his winning streak with this romantic battle of the sexes. His previous two films garnered critical praise and also a loyal following of admiring fans. Check out this list of films he directed before this box-office hit: "Spinal Tap" 1984, "The Sure Thing" 1985, "Stand By Me" 1986, "The Princess Bride" 1987, then this film in 1989. He switched gears in 1990 to direct the unnerving "Misery," starring Kathy Bates, then finally the wave of commercial success ended after the 1992 film, "A Few Good Men." After that, however, his work is hit-and-miss. So, with this film he can be seen at the top of his game, his enthusiasm echoed in the performances of his actors. Speaking of acting, I'd like to point out that Billy Crystal can't act. At the very least, he has an extremely limited range of emotion. Case in point: the scene in this film where the four lead actors are arguing about a wagon-wheel coffee table. Billy Crystal does what the late Walter Pidgeon used to do, and it fooled many a viewer into thinking he could act. Instead of showing emotional range through subtelty or genuine expression he would simply raise the volume of his voice. I'll speak LOUDER to show I'm angry! I have to admit that, with the right material, Billy Crystal can be very funny. He is a comedian, not an actor. Meg Ryan, on the other hand, has a much broader range of emotional capability. Not to mention, she is at her most charming here, arguably the peak of her popularity. At the time, she was a serious rival for Julia Roberts as America's sweetheart. This film is a reminder of just how attractive she was. Her intelligence, beauty, and brilliant comic acting is a highlight of this film. I dare anyone not to laugh at her scene in the city diner when she gives her performance of a fake orgasm in full voice. Not only is the scene incredibly sexy and funny, but it ends with one of the most memorable punch-lines in cinematic history. I can't finish this review without mentioning the screenwriter, Nora Ephron. Her work here is a tour-de-force of wit and an authentic clash between men and women; how they sometimes gel, while other times they bump heads. Frequently, they do both at the same time. Her script was nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and in hindsight probably should have won. "Dead Poets Society" walked home with the award. Except for Billy Crystal's limited emotional range, this film would have received a 5-star rating from me. However, he is passable in the more comedic scenes, while Meg Ryan absolutely glows here. The script is sharp, the direction is solid, and the end result is one of memorable comedy. This is an excellent edition to any DVD library. Thank you.