Directors: Jacob Bernstein & Nick Hooker
The first time I found out who Nora Ephron was was through my mother. I got into the passenger front seat of her car and saw a copy of one of Ephron’s essay collections and picked it up. My mother read me a couple of passages from it and spoke enthusiastically of her writing, stating how much she was enjoying it. I get why she would be attracted to Ephron’s writing and style, but mostly now that I know more of Ephron’s work I also can see parallels between the writer’s life and my own family’s and I imagine that my mother did too, which is why she responded so positively to Ephron’s essays.
That said, that day in my mother’s car was not the first time I had been exposed to the author, screenwriter and director’s work – I just didn’t know it at the time. I went on my first date during my freshman year of high school. As any cliche teenager would do, my date and I settled on going to see a movie, and so after school we took the bus to the closest movie theater and went to see a romantic comedy that had just come out: You’ve Got Mail. I was only fourteen at the time and my passion for film was still very much dormant, so I hadn’t begun to pay attention to things like the writing or directing credits; I was satisfied by an entertaining story line and recognizable actors, and nobody was more recognizable in the 90’s than the combination of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. I remember liking the film, in spite of how awkward I felt throughout the two hour film sitting next to a girl I was clammily holding hands with the entire time.
Over the next few years I would watch films written and/or directed by Ephron like Silkwood, Heartburn, When Harry Met Sally…, Sleepless in Seattle, Hanging Up, Lucky Numbers, Bewitched, and Julie & Julia. Most of these are a bit forgettable, a couple I actively disliked, but Silkwood and When Harry Met Sally… were films I not only appreciated, but intensely fell in love with, the latter mostly because of an impeccably written dialogue. That said, as opposed to many other directors and writers, Nora Ephron wasn’t actively on my radar, in spite of the fact that she is one of a small handful of women who managed success and respect in Hollywood behind the camera in a time period when this was incredibly rare (something I discussed earlier this year in a blog post about female directors).
Nora Ephron passed away from pneumonia due to leukemia treatments in 2012, and this year the documentary Everything Is Copy, chronicling the woman’s life, comes out. The film is co-directed by Ephron’s first born son Jacob Bernstein, thus making the film similar to last year’s What Happened Miss Simone? which saw active involvement from Nina Simone’s daughter in the production of that documentary. While having a family member at the helm of the film may cause a documentary to take on a heavily biased slant, in this case it also likely aided the film in gaining access to a large number of celebrities willing to talk openly about their relationship to Nora Ephron, and some even read portions of Ephron’s essays published in magazines, newspapers, and collections over the years.
Among the participants in the documentary are: Barbara Walters, Bob Balaban, Gaby Hoffmann, Joel Schumacher, Kate Capshaw, Lena Dunham, Meg Ryan, Meryl Streep, Mike Nichols, Reese Witherspoon, Rita Wilson, Rob Reiner, Rosie O’Donnell, Steven Spielberg, and Tom Hanks.
The film touches on the most important moments of Ephron’s life: her relationships with her parents, her three sisters, her two children, her three husbands, and her colleagues, coworkers, and friends. The film is essentially a tribute to the author/director and it completes this task in a charming and effective manner. Anyone looking for something that goes beyond what is already known about Ephron will likely be disappointed, though. A lot of attention is given to Ephron’s penchant to detail all aspects of her life in the public sphere (which was a saying of her mother’s and also lends the film its name), and the decision to live her final act and disease in absolute secrecy. Not only was Ephron’s disease not disclosed to the media and to fans, but her closest friends didn’t know either. It turns out that maybe even for Ephron not quite everything was copy, and while she was open she also knew when to put the pen down and close the curtains. The documentary is not groundbreaking, but casual fans of hers or people interested in a Hollywood that doesn’t really exist anymore will appreciate it.