Why I'll Always Remember Carrie Fisher as Marie in When Harry Met Sally
It's an innocuous role on the surface: quirky heroine's best friend. Upon a deeper look, Carrie Fisher's Marie is so much more. Over the past week, since Carrie Fisher's unexpected death, many people have remembered her for her work in Star Wars and for her personal life: She was a rebel leader. A intergalactic legend. A mental health advocate and kickass feminist. It's in her role as Marie in 1989's When Harry Met Sally much of this comes together.
When I was younger—probably not yet in my teens—I watched When Harry Met Sally for the first time. I had watched City Slickers with my dad not long before, and my mom wanted to show me a different side of Billy Crystal so one day we popped popcorn and rented When Harry Met Sally on VHS (you know, those bricks movies that used to come out roughly a year after it was in theaters). I was hooked. I loved Meg Ryan's high strung Sally Albright and Billy Crystal's neurotic Harry Burns. It wasn't until years later that I fell for the true star, Carrie Fisher's Marie.
When we meet Marie at a girl's lunch with Sally and their other friend Alice, Sally has broken up with her long time boyfriend and Marie wants her to get back on the horse. Pulling out her Rolodex (which she for some reason felt the need to bring to lunch), Marie says:
“All I'm saying is that somewhere out there is the man you are supposed to marry. And if you don't get him first, somebody else will, and you'll have to spend the rest of your life knowing that somebody else is married to your husband”
This kernel of wisdom is just the beginning of Marie's journey through When Harry Met Sally alongside the titular characters. Quickly we learn that while Marie is good at doling out the advice, she's in desperate need of taking some for herself. She's carrying on an affair with a married man, Arthur, who she knows will never leave his wife, and it becomes Sally's job to impart some hard truths, to which Marie begins her refrain of the movie, “You're right, you're right. I know you're right.”
What's really golden about this movie—really, Nora Ephron at her best—is that within the story of Harry and Sally is the love story of Marie and Jess. It begins with a great scene halfway through the movie where Jess, Marie, Harry, and Sally go on a double date in an attempt to matchmake Jess and Sally, and Harry and Marie. However, the date ends with Marie and Jess pairing off instead, and thus begins a love story that's as good as our main romance. Things move quickly between Jess and Marie and by the end of the film, they've moved in together and married, living their own happy ever after.
Throughout the movie, Marie and Jess truly are relationship goals. Marie and Jess are shown arguing, being affectionate, and generally just being the best couple in the movie. Getting to this happy-ever-after takes a lot for Marie. She learns to let go of her obsession. She learns how to ask for what she wants—in a healthy context—and she learns how to guide her friends and spouse to happiness too. She's a truly caring person and that comes through with every scene, every line, throughout When Harry Met Sally.
I'll be mourning Carrie Fisher for a while to come. She imparted so many words of wisdom throughout her 60 years of life, and as I remember each one, I'll hear the echoes of Marie and Sally on the sidewalk—“You're right, you're right. I know you're right.”
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Jennifer Proffitt is a Midwest transplant to New York City. You can usually find her wishing time-travel was possible so she could go back to Victorian England or that she was a paranormal creature. But in the meantime, she fills her time being the Community Manger for Heroes and Heartbreakers, and reading and writing romance. You can find her on Twitter at @JennProffitt