...while there are insights from A-listers, Carlson doesn’t just interview top-billed actors. We even hear from assistants to the assistants — like the guy who taught Meg Ryan 'how to actually use email.' The book’s wide net of sources, along with Ephronisms and movie dialogue, proves to be a wonderful recipe, giving readers a sense of what it was like working on an Ephron project at every level. Seamlessly woven into the narrative are bits of behind-the-scenes gossip that will surprise even the most die-hard fans ... Fast-paced, humorous, yet impressively researched, Carlson’s voice feels cut from the same cloth as Ephron’s, but her ode isn’t all warm meet-cutes at the top of the Empire State Building. She dings Ephron for the lack of diversity in 'her daffy, urban universes,' and she interviews a set designer on Sleepless who had such difficulty with the director that he begged to be fired.
That Carlson lacks the authority or experience to confidently analyze what Nora Ephron did and didn’t do as a filmmaker of romantic comedies — and fills the empty space with blog-post-like extras about what the director wore on the set — is the main reason this reader of neck-fretting age is not having what the impressionable author and her underanalyzed pop-culture project is having ... Nothing in I’ll Have What She’s Having makes a persuasive case for why Sleepless and Mail can be considered in the same category of excellence as Harry/Sally (me, I say they’re not); neither does Carlson make a convincing argument for why the romantic comedy needed saving (me, I say it didn’t, not if one looks at Hollywood history more fully); nor does she elucidate how Ephron saved the genre and shaped what came after (me, I say hooey).
Carlson's first book pays affectionate and clear-eyed tribute to the three most popular movies associated with screenwriter and director Nora Ephron. Going behind the scenes to explore the making of When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You've Got Mail, she dispenses insider information that fans of the movies will find hard to resist ... her breezy, frisky tone makes reading the book like sharing a gossipy lunch with an old friend. Although she keeps the focus on the three films, she also allows herself to go off on fascinating tangents about the lives and other movies of the director and her stars. As sweet and bubbly a treat as the movies it covers, this book does what it does impeccably, and readers will love it.
Even Ephron devotees will discover new tidbits, like the origin of the name 'Joe Fox,' Tom Hanks' character from You’ve Got Mail (the name of her droll Random House editor beau); the fights she'd have on set (including the big speech Billy Crystal gives at the end of When Harry Met Sally); and how closely Ryan and Julia Roberts vied for plum roles at the start of their careers ... The industry gossip is fun, and Carlson interviews famous faces like Hanks and Ryan. Yet too often in I'll Have What She's Having the retelling gets stuck in the weeds, with long passages on details like location scouting and costuming. Carlson is at her best when she resurfaces Ephron's own deadpan passages ... with an author as strong as the late writer at its core, surrounding passages often fall short. Still, it’s an enjoyable ride through the years Ephron spent behind the camera ... What Carlson effectively creates is a persuasive time capsule of a filmmaker who believed a connection of the heart was born of a soulful, searing, satisfying tête-à-tête between two equals.
Reading author Erin Carlson's book I'll Have What She's Having is as satisfying as finding out what goes into a favorite dessert — and then having another slice ... Carlson offers the deepest of dives into behind-the-scenes movie machinations to support her view that Ephron and those with whom she worked redefined the romantic comedy, making it 'wry, knowing and urbane but with an unabashed idealistic streak as well.' Recollections from Ryan, Hanks, Reiner and scores of colleagues, friends and family of Ephron — she died in 2012 at age 71 — help Carlson provide a witty, spirited take on cinematic dream teams at work.
There are no huge surprises. Carlson relies mostly on research and quotes from people who worked on the films. This isn’t a biography, but Carlson does mix that style of storytelling together with criticism and insight into the state of the movies in the years each of the three films came out ... I’ll Have What She’s Having,? in part, gives us a glimpse into the making of the films. 'A stickler for specifics,' Carlson writes, Ephron fired a prop guy while filming a movie in Toronto that was supposed to be set in New York City for using generic cream soda instead of the very New York City brand Dr. Brown’s). Carlson writes of Ephron’s famous love of food, and the actors who were considered for, but not cast in, some of the most iconic roles ... But ultimately, the book serves to show how the movies were made and the effect they had.
As a writer, Ms. Carlson is a hunter-gatherer. The book was originally a 2015 Vanity Fair oral-history project, and she has amassed quotes from diligent, wide-ranging research and from her own personal interviews...Since Ephron surrounded herself with large groups of loyal and devoted friends, collecting comments from those who knew her is an appropriate way to find out about her and her work. The deepest insights in the book come from these sources, but Ms. Carlson tells a full, gossipy 'behind the scenes' tale of Ephron’s stylish and witty world of film ... I’ll Have What She’s Having has one major problem: As a film historian, Ms. Carlson is just plain wrong ... Ephron deserves respect, but her movies are variations of the rom-com, not revolutions. She wasn’t a director with a personal visual style; she was a writer with ideas, a sense of her own era and the ability to organize a movie shoot the way she would a successful dinner party: brilliant casting, attention to detail, great catering (she was a famous cook), perfect background music and the orchestration of terrific conversation. Anyone who thinks that demeans her should try doing it.
Carlson dug deeply and interviewed widely to inform this guilty-pleasure romp ... although Carlson is generally admiring, she doesn’t hesitate to zing her occasionally about her troubles with cast and crew ... The text is suffused with dialogue—some from the films themselves—a technique that helps readers consume all the more quickly this long buffet line of snack food. On a more serious note, Carlson continually reminds readers of the difficulties women face in Hollywood as both directors and as performers whose aging often slows and then terminates their careers. A large bag of buttery popcorn that goes down oh so pleasantly.
Journalist Carlson doesn’t definitively prove her thesis—that Nora Ephron’s efforts as a screenwriter and film director saved the rom-com genre from history’s proverbial dustbin—but her debut book is nonetheless an enjoyable and informative romp that will please industry insiders and movie fans alike ... While the book offers little in the way of a larger social context, it includes plenty of power lunches and fan-pleasing trivia about not only Ephron but also two stars she often worked with ... Carlson’s breezy Hollywood chronicle also has a serious point to make: that the gender-based barriers Ephron overcame throughout her career remain very much in place in the film industry.