Nora Ephron: I’ll Have What She’s Having
We lost a great writer with the passing of Nora Ephron.
Judging from all the accounts of those who knew her, we also lost a great human being.
I did not know her, but I knew her work. Anyone who followed American cinema over the past three decades, how could they not?
Starting with the anti-love love story (about love, and Ephron’s love for New York City), “When Harry Met Sally,” when both Harry and Sally decided they couldn’t just be friends after all…“You’ve Got Mail,” the first movie that presciently understood love in the late 20th cyber century…“Julie and Julia,” which brilliantly bridged time and space, juxtaposing a young female blogger in Queens in the early oughts struggling to follow her life’s passion with Julia Childs bushwhacking her way through male-dominated culinarydom in Paris in the 1950s.
What I liked most about Ephron’s writing was her humor. But I also liked that she challenged accepted and conventional wisdom about women and humanity in general…and threw most of that conventional wisdom right out the window.
She understood their were universalities that underscored us all — men, women, children, — and made us all seem more like one, despite all our supposed differences. She could also brilliantly underscore those universals with her fantastic humor, humor that highlighted our common humanity and sometimes made seem so frail, but stubbornly persistent, our human condition.
But she wasn’t always about funny. 1983’s “Silkwood,” much of which was shot at the then new Las Colinas film studios near Dallas, demonstrated Ephron’s knack for serious storytelling, revealing the story of Karen Silkwood, an Oklahoma nuclear plant employee whistleblower (played brilliantly by Meryl Streep) who disappeared under suspicious circumstances before she could arrive for a New York Times interview. It was a serious movie about some very serious and relevant issues, and paved the way for later whistleblowing films like “The Insider.”
Or “Heartburn,” which laid bare the thorny thistles underlying marriage, again with Meryl Streep playing her alter ego to Ephron’s former husband Carl Bernstein (played devilishly by Jack Nicholson), with Ephron falling in love with the insider Washington columnist despite her (valid) fears about marriage, only to find him living a double life with another woman (John Edwards, anyone?).
No, I didn’t know Nora Ephron. But for the last thirty years, I did know her work, much of which still makes me chuckle years later. That’s a rare talent, especially these days.
I don’t know what it exactly what it was that Ephron had…but I’d like to have just a little bit of it nonetheless.