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Nora Ephron, R.I.P.

By Rich Heldenfels Published: June 27, 2012


The journalist, writer and director has died. Los Angeles Times obituary is here. Above are clips from two movies Ephron had a hand in -- as director and co-writer of "Michael," with John Travolta, and as writer of "My Blue Heaven" (directed by Herbert Ross). Both movies are uneven but, to me at least, filled with amusing and endearing moments. That said, I admred Ephron more as a print writer -- I still carry around, and re-read, collections like "Crazy Salad" and "Wallflower at the Orgy" -- than I did as a filmmaker. As a writer, she was always on a quest for understanding; she was not only good with words but as an observer -- and one who saw things that others missed. .Look for her discussion of "Deep Throat," with an insight I do not forget (and one that was so on-point that Gloria Steinem would quote it in her own essay on Linda Lovelace). She had her failings -- "Heartburn," a novel inspired by her failed marriage to Carl Bernstein, is a bad book -- but she had many more triumphs.

As for the movies, there are many parts of "When Harry Met Sally..,." (written by Ephron, directed by Rob Reiner)  that work, and it has one of Billy Crystal's best performances. But I hated "Sleepless in Seattle," perhaps because I was a few years into my own period of widowhood and single parenting, and "Sleepless" struck me as glibly superficial about both. "You've Got Mail" has never impressed me. "Julie & Juilia" was built for failure, since Julia (Child) was so much more compelling than Julie (Powell) -- and Julie onscreen was made far more bland (albeit less entertaining) than she was on the page. The movie of "Heartburn" -- adapted by Ephron, directed by Mike Nichols -- is not as screwed up as the book, but it still doesn't work as anything other than gettng even, and even there Bernstein was elevated somewhat because Jack Nicholson played his fictionalized version.

And "Bewitched"? "This Is My Life"? No further discussion here. David Thomson, assessing Ephron's work up through "Bewitched," tartly observed: "Just because she rates as a successful woman in Hollywood is no reason to omit the feeling that she is the director of at least five supine pictures." But there are still those little bursts of wonder, in "Harry," "My Blue Heaven," "Michael" and the Streep passages in "Julie & Julia,." And all those marvelous, earlier, thoughtful, written words.

 

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