I’ve written about it before: the itch to tell somebody something — usually something small, something that would only mean anything to the two of you — that runs deeper than the knowledge that that person is no longer there to tell.
It’s a little weirder when your reflexes evolve. I had a fleeting urge to send my mother a link to this essay, which references a movie that was on HBO again and again when I was going through puberty, busy getting ditched by my friends and leaning on my mother for companionship. Which the characters in the movie sort of were, too.
Mom liked movies full of pleasant spaces that ended happily, and I like movies full of funny, mean people. Nora Ephron’s movies usually met both our criteria. (I recently picked up a cheap copy of Heartburn — Ephron’s first novel — and rather delightedly discovered that not only were some of its best lines recycled in When Harry Met Sally, the narrator was so much angrier than any of Ephron’s on-screen alter egos.) If my mother is anywhere, she’s probably talking Ephron’s ear off right now about how Heartburn — the movie — inspired her to make key lime pie for the first time, or how You’ve Got Mail stayed on as background noise while she wrote her master’s thesis.
As wives are wont to do, mine announced one evening in 1992 that we were going to a movie.
The movie was This Is My Life, the writer and first-time director was Nora Ephron, and within the hour, there we were in the cinema watching the opening credits of a middle-aged-chick flick about a woman (played by the wonderful Julie Kavner) who becomes a stand-up comic, moves to Manhattan from one of the not-Manhattan boroughs and sort of neglects her kids in the process but actually makes everyone’s life better in the long run. Though that movie would be considered only a middling success, it was inexpensive to make, had wonderful, real performances, looked great (though Nora said to me years later, “Why didn’t I move the camera?”) and made some money.
I thought it was much more, an ideal debut film that sparkled with bits of genius…
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