Memoir Reviews

Book Review | I’ll Have What She’s Having

February 12, 2021
I'll Have what she's having jesspierron.com @the_afterword

By Erin Carlson

Journalist Erin Carlson takes us on an intimate journey of Nora Ephron’s three iconic films that ultimately paved the way for genuine and wholesome romantic comedies: When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail.

I’ll Have What She’s Having is basically split into 4 parts:

  • 𝗪𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝗛𝗮𝗿𝗿𝘆 𝗠𝗲𝘁 𝗦𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆
  • 𝗦𝗹𝗲𝗲𝗽𝗹𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗶𝗻 𝗦𝗲𝗮𝘁𝘁𝗹𝗲
  • 𝗬𝗼𝘂’𝘃𝗲 𝗚𝗼𝘁 𝗠𝗮𝗶𝗹
  • And information on Nora’s life sprinkled in between

This book definitely reads like a journalist wrote it; as in there are tons of quotes from people she’s interviewed or from research she’s conducted. Just go into it thinking you’re reading a long magazine article versus a novel. If you’re worried that reading a book like this will make the movies less likable – spoiler alert – it doesn’t. This book shows how much of passion projects they truly were for Nora Ephron.

Carlson digs deep into these three wholly romantic movies and sheds light on the messiness and dysfunction of Hollywood while acknowledging the intelligence of Nora Ephron herself. Ephron decided if she was going to make a movie that celebrated the female experience, she was just going to have to do it herself.

If Nora wanted to write movies about women, she might as well direct them herself. It seemed to her that the female experience intrigued only a handful of male directors…thereby lowering her changes to make a film featuring strong (or simply existent) women characters. The gender imbalance was striking. For example, of the 1,794 studio movies issued between 1983 and 1992, just 4.5% were direct by women…It’s sad, but true, that women got more breaks during the silent film era

I’ll Have What She’s Having by Erin Carlson

A viewer might notice that Nora Ephron had a bit of a habit in having the same main actors (hello Meg & Tom). This book also points out what Ephoron did to make the side characters pop – Carrie Fisher, Bill Pullman, Greg Kinnear. It highlights how much Ephron puts out there of herself – good, bad, and ugly (Sally Albright’s crazy ordering? That’s Nora). It was so interesting to see Carlson illustrate how Ephron’s characters truly paved the way for other romantic comedy female characters.

Sally Albright helped popularize the trope of the urban single-girl journalist…After Sally, we saw Renee Zellweger the hapless broadcast reporter in ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary,’ Kate Hudson the sneaky magazine columnist in ‘How to Lost a Guy in 10 Days,’ and Eva Mendes in the cynical tabloid tomboy in ‘Hitch’…Sarah Jessica Parker wrote sex columns for a New York City newspaper in ‘Sex and the City’…viewers adored Carrie in spite of her flaws. They wanted her to get that happy ending – with Mr. Big, a Joe Fox-ian playboy who treats her poorly.

The beautiful thing about this book was it highlighted how all of Nora Ephron’s movie were total love letters to her favorite city in the world: New York. And as much and I loved reading about the actors behind the scenes (yes, I want to be Tom Hank’s new bestie), Carlson never fawns over anyone or anything in this book. She just emphasizes the facts and strengths of these movies, performances, and sheer strength of Ephron’s writing and directing.

If you love these movies as much as I do – or they speak to you in some way – GO READ THIS BOOK!

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