There’s a lot that can be said about the work of Nora Ephron. Many will agree that it followed the fairly typical Hollywood trajectory of incredible beginnings, falling predictably into a slow decline away from relevance and general palatability and into projects not quite suitable for reference when recounting her legacy. Then, like any great movie, she rapidly experienced an exponential shift back to the peak form we all knew her capable of in the final act.
But, beyond even that, Ms. Ephron was a force to be reckoned with the majority of her career for one simple reason: she was the best at what she did. How many of us dream to reach even striking distance of that feat, regardless of our chosen profession? And, the real brilliance with her being considered roundly as the undefeated Queen of RomComs? Well, it’s about the closest an opinion can get to being completely unarguable fact. Ephron = RomCom. Science.
In my humble opinion, the way that the woman left us could not be any more… well, her. I don’t want to sit here behind the blind-ish eye of the internet and pretend that we were best friends, but I was one of the desk jockeys in the production office for Julie & Julia who helped keep her well-supplied with not-expiring-too-soon Coke Zero and interesting alternate lunch options for dailies viewing. I was hardly being invited over for family holidays after our brief time together, but for many years prior to our ever physically crossing paths, I was a student of Nora Ephron’s work and larger than life preceding personality and reputation.
It was somewhere around my junior year in college when I decided that not only did I unabashedly love the romantic comedy genre, but I’d come far enough along in my development as an adult that I was ready for the even more monumental step: admitting it to the rest of the world. I’d already decided a few years before that I was going to be a filmmaker when I grew up, but it wasn’t until that moment (when I decided my favorite films mostly all had the same basic plot and characters), that I really became comfortable with who I was to become as an artist.
What brings me joy in creation, in filmmaking, in writing, in drawing, in building sand castles, everything… what really keeps me going is the idea that someday, somewhere, I will help make someone smile. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it probably a million more times – I’m not here to save the world; I’m not here to change the world or even enlighten the world (let’s leave that to the documentarians, Aronofskys, Scorseses, and Solondz’s of the world). With our movies, I’m just hoping to make a few people forget about the cares in their everyday lives for about 90-100 minutes, chuckle outloud a few times, and (most importantly) leave the theatre or their living room or their office or wherever with a smile on their face.
Several people can be thanked for this revelation. Kevin Smith is the most obvious, I think, as he’s the guy that made the movie about two guys talking about dirty pointless things and walking around the mall. He’s the one that lit the ol’ brain bulb that, “hey, maybe I can do this too.” Another is Cameron Crowe. Fodder for another blog in and of itself, this man’s influence over my career trajectory is impossible to overstate. Nevermind the fact that his movie Elizabethtown landed basically on my hometown doorstep and got me into my first real deal, big time movie job, but it was with a fella whose entire catalog I’d already practically memorized as a result of repeated viewings.
Honestly, I could probably go on and on with the list of people leading up to that fateful day; Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, John Hughes, even a few teams come to mind: Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel, Harry Elfont & Deborah Kaplan… but when it comes right down to it, when we really lay the cards right down onto the table, what DVD did I pop in on a shitty day growing up and still do today? When Harry Met Sally… or, Mixed Nuts (during the holidays, criminally underrated gem)… or, My Blue Heaven. Let’s not even begin to discuss the amount of quality hours accrued between my father and I, spent during the small amount of “bonding” time we actually exercised in the ’90s, watching, rewatching, quoting and recording poor Barney Coopersmith’s antics whilst trying to help domesticate ol’ Vinnie and his cartoon mobster ways.
The point I’m making is this, folks. I’m 32 years old. I didn’t cry the day that Kurt Cobain died, and I managed to fight back maybe a single watery notion when I read about MCA. Tuesday night, when I heard that she was officially gone, never to summarize exactly what has been in every significant other’s of mine’s mind that I’ve ever taken favor to, never to bring that joy back into a room by ordering something ridiculous “for the middle”… Well, for just a few minutes, quietly on my sofa, I wept.
There’s no question, no shortage of silly passages just like this one to prove it- we’ve lost a legend. But, the genre that she perfected remains.
She didn’t change the world, but damn did she make me smile.