Happy birthday to Meg Ryan, one of Hollywood’s most beloved actresses best known for her romantic comedy hits, cute expressions and changing her styles which definitely deserves our praises today and thanks to Paul, I’ll do so right here.
I recently caught up with two of Meg Ryan movies, When Harry Met Sally and When a Man Loves a Woman, two famous rom-coms that feature an entirely different Meg – A neurotic yet optimistic Sally vs. a recovering alcoholic Alice. So for Paul’s Meg-nificent blogathon, I’ll cover both Ryans as both Sally and Alice are clear-cut winners for me.
When Harry Met Sally (1987) – Sally Albright
Sally Albright is perhaps the most iconic female lead in Meg Ryan’s rom-com career. She’s a woman of specific taste that alternates wee and irritating oh so well. She’s high maintenance and excels in logic thinking, ordering out and faking orgasms while eating a sandwich. Her friendship with Harry begins as a series of random encounters at the university, the airport, and the bookstore and takes off with a continuing dialogue that revolves around the epic question “whether or not men and women can be friends without wanting to have sex?”. A scenario which has been proven possible by Seinfeld’s Jerry and Elaine.
One of the most notable things in Sally is her fabulous puffy 90’s hairstyles and “you lost me” expressions that evolve as her plutonic friendship with Harry weaves towards the curiosity of intimacy – a streak of empty relationships before they both realize “he’s/she’s the one!”. Sally’s grounded point of view is a perfect match for Harry’s cynical but funny attitude and yet they both cannot avoid the unavoidable when it comes to love but Sally still maintains self-control like a pro.
Apparently, Sally’s puffy, flat, frizzy, short, long, pixie hairdos inspired a lot of women at hair salons back in the day, requesting the “Meg Ryan”.
Sally’s character takes a lot after filmmaker and ‘When Harry Met Sally’ screenplay writer Nora Ephron, who is a famed foodie and a picky eater herself. Ephron practically reinvented romantic comedies with her Harry and Sally duo and just like her, Sally is unabashedly particular about everything she does. Meg Ryan is the embodiment of the comic female lead always falling in and out of love, mostly in New York, but one time in Seattle, which makes her a completely relatable character. She’s quirky, touching, funny and misunderstood more often than she’d like to be. She masters the match-made-in-heaven with every co-star, only here, heaven has the backdrop of New York – and the angels sing with a pitch-perfect climaxing New Year’s Eve kiss.
Meg Ryan rose to stardom with Sally, a role that launched a rom-com sequence with Ryan in the lead like Sleepless in Seattle (1993), You’ve Got Mail (1998), French Kiss (1995), Addicted to Love (1997) and so many more which you can read all about on Paul’s Ryan and Pfeiffer dedicated blog.
Moving on to a more dramatic Ryan character, Alice Green.
When a Man Loves a Woman (1994) – Alice Green
Alice Green is a teacher, a family woman and a recovering alcoholic that puts a fine line between her two loves – family and booze. Unlike Sally Albright who deals with the question of friendship and intimacy, Alice Green copes with the challenge of marriage and addiction up to the point where she almost sacrifices everything for a drop of liquor. What Sally might consider a reckless behavior, Alice regards as wild and carefree. Sally’s restraint is replaced with Alice’s brash rut and a whole new Meg is conceived. Meg sets aside her America’s Sweetheart typecast, a term which apparently was never to her liking, and emerges a troublesome and self-hurting mother of two. Her stressful home and work life reduce her to drinking constantly and ultimately affect her relationship with her patient and loving husband Michael (Andy Garcia).
Alice seems the ideal woman at first with her good looks, her captivating smile, her motherly touch, and her solid career. We soon notice the cracks beneath the glossy surface and Alice is out of control. Like Sally, Alice evolves, not necessarily physically (no puffy hairdos). Her rehabilitation is a struggle yet she slowly converts into a strong individual and even helps others confront their self-abusive behaviors. When Alice returns home things run into a wall because now she’s capable of solving her own problems and does not rely on her hubby.
Meg Ryan has great on-screen chemistry with Andy Garcia just like she had with Billy Crystal but the obvious winner is, of course, Tom Hanks with which she co-starred in four movies – Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), You’ve Got Mail (1998) and Ithaca (2015).
Meg simply kills it as the ditsy Sally, the sleepless Annie, the alcoholic Alice, the vengeful Maggie, the middle-class Frannie, which goes to show that she’s so much more than ‘the girl next door’ term that was pinned on her over the years.
Meg claims she’s not a very conventional person and I personally wish her many more years of great and unconventional and unforgettable performances for us to cherish.
Happy birthday, Maggy! 🎉