We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
Billy Crystal's "Forget Paris" is a more or less deliberate attempt to repeat the success of "When Harry Met Sally . . .," his 1989 romantic comedy. Its ingredients look as if they were devised to appeal to all audiences: This is the first film to find a way to combine professional basketball with April in Paris. By all rights, the movie should be a pale imitation of its betters, but sometimes lightning does strike twice, and this is a wonderful film, filled with romantic moments that ring true, and with great big laughs.
The movie stars Crystal as Mickey, a popular NBA referee who is known as skilled and fearless (in an opening sequence, he nullifies a sensational game-winning last-second shot by Charles Barkley). When his father dies, Mickey accompanies the body to France, because the old man, who made few friends after the Second World War was over, wanted to be buried with the dead of his Army company. At the Paris airport, the body is lost, causing Mickey to scream: "What do you mean, what did it look like? My coffin was the one with the red yarn on the handle!" He is screaming at Ellen (Debra Winger), an American in Paris, who works for the airline. She likes his sense of humor. (When Customs later quarantines the body for health reasons, he screams, "He's dead! He has no health!") They meet again at the cemetery, one thing leads to another, he stays in Paris an extra day, and she takes him sightseeing. (Looking at Rodin's "The Thinker," Mickey muses, " `The Thinker' is thinking, `goddamn that Rodin! Three drinks, and I'm nude.' ") This whole story of their first meeting and gradual courtship is told as a series of flashbacks, in a conversation between an old friend of Harry's (Joe Mantegna) and his fiancée (Cynthia Stevenson).
They're in a restaurant, waiting for others to arrive, and as each new couple joins the table, it adds details to the saga of Mickey and Ellen. (No prizes for guessing which couple arrives last.) Mickey and Ellen were made in heaven for each other.
Unfortunately, their lifestyles were made in hell, and although falling in love is easy for them (despite various obligatory difficulties), living together is not. Ellen is not thrilled by her first glimpse of Mickey's bachelor pad, which is "kind of a shrine for watching ESPN." Nor does she much like sitting around at homewhile Mickey commutes within the far-flung empire of the NBA. The pattern of the movie consists of fights and separations, followed by reunions and reconciliations, all recounted by the pals around the restaurant table.