Can a man and a woman (a woman whom the man finds attractive) just be friends without sex intervening? The initial hypothesis is "No," and it takes twelve-years-plus of screen time to fail to disprove it. A lot of sophisticated ideas, observations, and sitcom one-liners are gotten off the collective chest (of scriptwriter Nora Ephron and director Rob Reiner), but not much takes shape in the way of dramatization. As the words mount up in static set pieces, the movie often suggests a live-action Feiffer cartoon, rancid with Manhattan angst. It also sometimes suggests a Woody Allen movie -- at which times it would be better advised to avoid the Gershwin on the soundtrack and the references to "Casablanca", not to mention the crosstown dash at the climax. And talking of climaxes: the famous faked-orgasm scene in a crowded deli only shows that a faked orgasm is apt to look faked indeed, and that the filmmakers are willing to sacrifice half a movie of repetitive character development for one big boffo. With Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, and Bruno Kirby. (1989) — Scott Marks
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