Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Farewell, dear friend...
Today, the world lost one of its brightest stars. Nora Ephron was an inspiration to writers everywhere - and the reason I started writing.
It was because of Nora that I fell in love with romantic comedy. She showed me that I could be strong, witty and intelligent in my writing; that 'rom-com' didn't equal 'brainless'. Her films were warm and funny but also fiercely intelligent and sassy. She saw the absurdities of modern life and wasn't afraid to call them out. The social conventions that prevent us saying what we really feel; the identities we hide behind on social media; the expectations we have about the opposite sex; the hang-ups we have about ourselves: Nora saw all of these and held up a mirror to make us laugh at our crazy selves.
But given all of this, she wasn't cynical about the power of love. At a time when it was very fashionable to dismiss the notion of true love in films, Nora blazed a trail. Hers was a realistic view of love, but still maintained a sense of magic and otherworldliness: that moment when common sense is abandoned and we just give in to the wonder of being in love. So Annie meets Sam at the top of the Empire State Building at sunset, Harry crashes a New Years Ball to declare his love to Sally, and Kathleen discovers that NY152 is actually Joe Fox - the man she has fallen in love with twice.
Through Nora's eyes I discovered and fell in love with New York's Upper West Side. Kowalski's florist store in Fairytale of New York is situated one block up from the shop they used as The Shop Around the Corner in the film of You've Got Mail. Celia - Rosie's best friend and wry New York Times columnist - is based on Nora herself. I saw an interview with her when You've Got Mail was released and thought how great it would be to have a friend like her in New York. For me, a twenty-something woman in a difficult marriage, not able to afford a trip to The Big Apple, Nora was both friend and tour guide, opening up a world to me that otherwise I would never have had the opportunity to see. Her writing showed me that the kind of story I wanted to write was perfectly reasonable, that it was possible to move from humour to heartbreak to happiness within the framework of a romantic storyline. She demonstrated to me that it was OK to write about love happening to real people with real lives and real jobs, not fabulous careers in advertising and celebrity boyfriends, untouched by the pressures and concerns of everyday life. And she showed me that the lightest touch of hands could be as erotic and emotionally-charged as a full-on love scene.
So thank you, Nora. Thank you for being an inspiration, for never taking life too seriously and for never surrendering your belief in the power of love. Thank you for being a pioneer for women writers and film directors, for being uncompromising in your opinions and for making films and writing books that will live on as a legacy of your brilliance.