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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Essential Touch of Nora Ephron by Erin Carlson, Author of I'll Have What She's Having + Giveaway (US/Can)

I'll Have What She's Having: How Nora Ephron's Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy
Erin Carlson
from Hachette Books // Hachette

A backstage look at the making of Nora Ephron’s revered trilogy–When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, and Sleepless in Seattle–which brought romantic comedies back to the fore, and an intimate portrait of the beloved writer/director who inspired a generation of Hollywood women, from Mindy Kaling to Lena Dunham.

In I’ll Have What She’s Having, entertainment journalist Erin Carlson tells the story of the real Nora Ephron and how she reinvented the romcom through her trio of instant classics. With a cast of famous faces including Rob Reiner, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, and Billy Crystal, Carlson takes readers on a rollicking, revelatory trip to Ephron’s New York City, where reality took a backseat to romance and Ephron–who always knew what she wanted and how she wanted it–ruled the set with an attention to detail that made her actors feel safe but sometimes exasperated crew members.

Along the way, Carlson examines how Ephron explored in the cinema answers to the questions that plagued her own romantic life and how she regained faith in love after one broken engagement and two failed marriages. Carlson also explores countless other questions Ephron’s fans have wondered about: What sparked Reiner to snap out of his bachelor blues during the making of When Harry Met Sally? Why was Ryan, a gifted comedian trapped in the body of a fairytale princess, not the first choice for the role? After she and Hanks each separately balked at playing Mail’s Kathleen Kelly and Sleepless‘s Sam Baldwin, what changed their minds? And perhaps most importantly: What was Dave Chappelle doing... in a turtleneck? An intimate portrait of a one of America’s most iconic filmmakers and a look behind the scenes of her crowning achievements, I’ll Have What She’s Having is a vivid account of the days and nights when Ephron, along with assorted cynical collaborators, learned to show her heart on the screen.

Why Nora Ephron, and Why Now?

When the subject is romantic comedy—and these days, the genre's rumored death—it is unimaginable not to credit Nora Ephron as the fairy godmother who created Sally Albright, her blonder, bubblier alter ego. With When Harry Met Sally, Ephron launched a second golden age of films that celebrated traditional romance while affecting a tone that was urbane, wry, and knowing. She restored the balance of the screen couple, ensuring her actresses had an equal voice if not a Tom Hanks-sized paycheck; revived the trope of the cosmopolitan woman journalist, paving the way for Bridget Jones and Carrie Bradshaw; and transformed New York City in the popular imagination from a dangerous place where dreams are snuffed out to a sparkling wonderland brimming with potential soul mates, including the perfect person for you. Ephron was neither a visual filmmaker nor entirely comfortable with showing sex on camera; words were her strength, and she leveraged her greatest weapon during a time when sex comedies were out and family values were in; when intense backlash against women who challenged gender roles threatened to limit a female filmmaker like herself. Ephron detractors dub her worldview "dated," but why do her best movies—not to mention her tart persona—still feel so current, vital, and subversive?

As I argue in my new book, I'll Have What She's Having, Ephron's beloved rom-com trifecta with Meg Ryan—When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You've Got Mail—reinvigorated the genre, stagnant through the 1980s, through wit and warmth, harkening back to classic films from Ernst Lubitsch (The Shop Around the Corner), Billy Wilder (The Apartment) and Woody Allen (Annie Hall). Though she balked at being labeled a woman filmmaker, Ephron's feminine touch mattered as much as her sharp writing and acid humor; as both a writer and director, Ephron wielded enormous control over her female characters—if she were not there to advocate for Sally, then Harry would have hogged the spotlight for himself; Sleepless's Annie Reed, shamed in an early draft of the screenplay for being the only sibling in her family not to have children, would have perpetuated the myth of the sad, single woman if Ephron and sister Delia did not step in to rewrite the script, and transform Annie's desperation to meet Sam Baldwin into an inspiring comment on taking the reins of your own life and making destiny happen; without Nora and Delia, who co-wrote Mail, Ryan's Kathleen Kelly might have been eclipsed by the star power of Tom Hanks, then in the midst of an extraordinary streak of hit dramatic films.

Yet in Nora's capable hands, Kathleen was given qualities bestowed most often to male characters: Hopes, dreams, humor and a story with which anyone, regardless of gender, could relate. The pixie-proprietor of an independent bookstore derived self-worth from her professional achievements, not a man. Kathleen's soulful connection to a stranger she met online touches something primal in most all of us: The desire to be loved, heard and understood.

To desire love is what it means to be human; back then, dudes still dominated the box office, and stories about women—excuse me, human beings—were often told through romantic comedy, which remains taken less seriously than other genres associated with men.

Five years after Ephron's death, the romantic comedy has all but disappeared from the multiplex, save for outliers like this summer's The Big Sick, and migrated to television with gems like Catastrophe, Younger, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, all series that pick up where Ephron left off, carrying on her tradition of elevating three-dimensional women characters—and giving them great words to say.

Meanwhile, Ephron's voice—sorely missed, from the big screen to her commentary on current events—is immortalized in her best films, which remain as comforting, and essential, as ever.

About the Author

Erin Carlson has covered the entertainment industry for The Hollywood Reporter and AP. Her work has appeared in Glamour, Fortune, and the LA Times. She compiled and wrote an oral history of You’ve Got Mail for Vanity Fair.

She holds a master's in magazine journalism from Northwestern, and has been profiled in the New York Times.


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of I'll Have What She's Having—yay!!

To enter, all you have to do is answer Erin's question in the comments below:
What is your favorite romantic comedy film?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Erin and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

I'm a huge fan of the 80s and 90s classics in general, but Say Anything is one that stands out to me. High-school-heartthrob John Cusack is one of my favorites!

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks at TLC Book Tours and Hachette Books!
Giveaway ends September 27th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide. There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!