On the 25th anniversary of Nora Ephron's impeachable rom-com classic, When Harry Met Sally..., we want to celebrate not Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan's Harry and Sally, but Carrie Fisher and the late Bruno Kirby's Marie and Jess. Calling them the "other" couple in the movie feels incorrect to the point of insult. They're the better couple in the movie.
While Harry and Sally are bickering about the nature of relationships between men and women and trying to negotiate their friendship, Jess and Marie share some of the sweetest, subtlest moments in the entire film. Sure, they aren't the most fully developed characters. They do occupy the secondary "best friend" roles in the movie, and we know little about their histories, though we have slightly more info on Marie, who at one point dates a married man and has a rolodex [EDITOR'S NOTE: Ask your grandparents. — JR] of guys she uses to try to find a set up for Sally.
Marie and Jess, like the interview subjects interspersed throughout the film, are the couple Harry and Sally should be emulating. Their courtship is an intellectual love-at-first-sight scenario. Marie quotes an article Jess wrote—"restaurants are to people in the '80s what theater was to people in the '60s"— and they quickly develop a mutual respect for one another and ditch their friends (who are supposed to be their dates) to go home together.
It's not like Marie and Jess have a conflict-free relationship—case in point, the famous coffee table scene. The scene is more famous for the fact that it prompts Harry's breakdown after running into his ex-wife, but perhaps its greatest moment is when Harry finally leaves the room. Marie turns to Jess and says, "I want you to know that I will never want that wagon-wheel coffee table." Marie can even make a joke about divorce. That's how comfortable these two are.
And Marie and Jess get what is probably the most romantic moment in the whole movie. After each fielding post-coital calls from Harry and Sally, respectively, Marie and Jess settle back into bed. "Tell me I'll never have to be out there again," Marie sighs. "You will never have to be out there again," Jess replies as he puts his arm around her.
Yes, Harry's ecstatic confession of love to Sally at the end-of-movie New Year's Eve party is perhaps the dramatic scenario of day dreams, but there's something comfortingly realistic in the way Marie and Jess's romance unfolds. Sure, it's still idealistic, but believing in the possibility of having something akin to what Marie and Jess have is an idealism based not on grand romantic gestures, but on the quotidian pleasures of having a life partner.
So as we remember Harry and Sally's debates about orgasms and whether men and women can just be friends, let's also shower some love on Jess and Marie. They are the quintessential rom-com best friends, who may actually have the best love story in the movie.
Also: Baby Fish Mouth.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.