Review: Sleepless in Seattle (Film)

Sleepless in SeattleI don’t know if it’s because I now fall under the descriptor “thirtysomething,” but lately I’ve been feeling maudlin and sentimental. Or maybe it’s the post-holidays blues or the I-don’t-have-money-or-a-job-and-my-car-is-dying-and-I’m-fifteen-pounds-overweight-and-I-live-with-my-parents-and-I-should-be-on-the-show-Hoarders blues. While I was unable to sleep some nights ago, I caught “While You Were Sleeping” on TBS or WGN or one of those channels and I felt compelled to watch it from beginning to end. By the time I got to the scene where Sandra Bullock was telling Bill Pullman’s family that all she really wanted was a family of her own and she was grateful to them because they treated her as family, I was a hysterical sobbing mess. And seriously, if I were making my living as a subway ticket booth operator and I am living in a crappy apartment where I am constantly stalked by my perverted landlord and my love interest is Bill Pullman, I would have pushed Peter Gallagher out of the way and got run over by the train myself. But what does that have to do with “Sleepless in Seattle,” you ask, other than they both have sleep in the title? Well, I was suffering from one of those sleepless nights again and trying to get myself sleepy by staring at the ceiling and humming “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” which is one of my favorite songs of all time. Somewhere in the middle of it, I got choked up and my eyes started to burn with tears and before I knew it, I was sobbing again. To distract myself from my own maudlin gloominess, I turned on the TV and guess what was on? Yep, “Sleepless in Seattle,” whose soundtrack “In the Wee Small Hours” happens to be a part of (other great songs in this soundtrack: “A Wink and a Smile” by Harry Connick Jr and “Stardust” by Nat King Cole, which never fails to make me cry a little bit).

For me, “Sleepless in Seattle” is one of the last great romantic American movies that hearkens back to films such as “It Happened One Night,” “An Affair to Remember” (which happens to be the favorite movie of ALL the women in this movie), “The Philadelphia Story,” “Roman Holiday,” “Starman,” (yes, shut up, Starman), and the classic Meg Ryan-Billy Crystal vehicle, “When Harry Met Sally.” I hate to sound like a curmudgeon or one of the olds, but I gotta say that they just don’t make romantic comedies like they used to (the latest cinematic abortion being this Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher travesty where they’re fuck buddies who swear they’ll never fall in love with each other and somehow, the “film” is transcended to the heights of wit and sophistication that before now only Oscar Wilde has ever experienced, just because the two romantic leads say “fuck” a lot. When will Hollywood realize that Kelso will never ever make a convincing leading man? Don’t even talk to me about the Mila Kunis-Justin Timberlake abomination that’s basically the same damn movie, only with a different title. Who will win? I’ll tell you who won’t. The viewers! I’ve seen the trailers for both and both made me want to poke my eyes and eardrums out). When was the last time you saw a romantic comedy film that made you go, “Aww… I want that” or “Aww… I want a man like Tom Hanks and a golden retriever… but mostly a golden retriever”? Can you honestly tell me you thought that when you saw:

1) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
2) All About Steve (update: I did see this movie and hang me, but I thought it was kind of sweet and ends with Sandra Bullock being happy with herself, boyfriend or no boyfriend)
3) The Sweetest Thing
4) The Ugly Truth
5) Valentine’s Day?

Ugh, with the glut of terrible romcoms featuring Kate Hudson, Katherine Heigl, Jennifer Aniston, and Cameron Diaz these days that focus more on slapstick and gross-out gags in an effort to appeal also to male viewers, the romance part of the “rom-com” is sadly neglected. I want a movie that’ll make me go “awww” or get misty-eyed and have my throat tighten up on me upon which I would lie and blame my darn allergies.

The plot of Sleepless in Seattle is this: Meg Ryan’s Annie works as a journalist in a newspaper and is about to marry Bill Pullman who is a nice guy who seems to adore her and indulge her quirks (she has many– this is a Meg Ryan character, after all). They are similar and share many common values, which is displayed in the scene where they are shopping for wedding china and discussing how many place settings per table. They simultaneously decide on ten because “Eight is too few and twelve is… too many.” Annie’s boss is Rosie O’Donnell who is also her best friend. The two of them often talk about how nice, responsible, and dependable Walter (Bill Pullman) is and how lucky Annie is to have him, but it’s obvious she’s yearning for something more, like a grand romance. One night, while Annie is driving home by herself from a family Christmas party that she attended with Walter, she turns on the radio and comes across a call-in show featuring a little boy caller talking about his widower father who is lonely and “Sleepless in Seattle” and Jonah (the little boy) wants to find him a girlfriend. Annie’s initial reaction is to scoff cynically, but when Sam (Tom Hanks) grabs the phone from his son and reluctantly starts to talk about his dead wife and how much he loved her (the dead wife was played by Carey Lowell of Law & Order, dudes!), Annie melts and gets teary-eyed. When she comes in to work, she talks about the show with Rosie O’Donnell and they both agree that it is the sweetest thing ever. Annie resolves to find out for herself if Sam is for real and in the course of her investigation, finds herself falling for him, putting her relationship with Walter in jeopardy. Will Annie risk her sure-thing with Walter in order to pursue a possible relationship with a guy she hears talking on the radio and subsequently stalks using her newspaper job’s resources? Duh.

On paper, it’s a pretty silly premise. Thirtysomething woman with pre-wedding jitters hears a man talking on the radio about being a widower and how much he loved his dead wife, goes “awwww,” and finds herself yearning for the same kind of devotion and love even though it’s something she already gets from her fiance. She stalks him, hires a private investigator to check him out and take photos of him, flies across the country herself to see him (they have a meet-cute in the middle of a busy road where they stare at each other in awe and say, “Hello” dazedly at each other) only to wuss out and not even really talk to him, jilts her fiance, and agrees to meet the stranger on top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day like in An Affair to Remember (without knowing that it was actually his pre-adolescent son who set up the meeting). WHO DOES THAT?! How and where does it happen outside of a rom-com, right? It’s crazy! We don’t see what happens to Sam and Annie after they meet up on top of the Empire State Building and smile at each other and decide to hang out, but how do you think Sam would have reacted after finding out that Annie stalked him for months before meeting up with him?

Oddly enough, this movie really worked for me. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks have awesome chemistry and the dialogue is quick and witty. By the time You’ve Got Mail came around, the Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks pairing was a little more than nauseating and headache inducing for me, but in Sleepless in Seattle, they were a brilliant team. The soundtrack is great, the acting was wonderful, and Bill Pullman’s character Walter is thankfully gracious and still adorable even when Annie is dumping him for another guy. I was so happy that he doesn’t turn out to be an 80’s Movie Sociopathic Douchebro who promises retaliation for being dumped, but instead wishes Annie to be happy. When Annie tells him over a romantic dinner with a view of the Empire State Building that she is in love with someone else and about to meet up with this guy at the Empire State Building, Walter just says, “So he could be waiting for you… right now… on top of the Empire State Building?” and Annie says, “I don’t know… maybe. Probably not. But I have to know.” Walter tells her, “Look, Annie, I love you. Let’s leave that out of it. I don’t want to be someone you’re settling for. I don’t want to be someone anyone settles for. […] Marriage is hard enough without bringing such low expectations into it, isn’t it?” Awwww, Walter. Sure, he’s allergic to wheat, strawberries, penicillin, pollen, nuts and wool, but does that preclude him from being deserving of a grand romance? Stupid Annie. It’s a good thing Sam is a great guy– great father (sure, his 8-year-old son gets on a plane and flies 3,000 miles away to meet a strange woman in a strange city he’s never been in the off-chance she could make a good wife for his father — and SAM DOESN’T FIND OUT ABOUT IT IMMEDIATELY AND LOCKS UP THE LITTLE BASTARD IN HIS ROOM TILL HE’S 18 — seriously, WHAT?!?!), good brother, and apparently, a good husband, plus he’s got a water-front home in the Pacific Northwest, so you know he’s probably got money, but seriously?!?

And this is why you shouldn’t over-think your favorite rom-coms and ruin it for yourself forever. Anyway, Sleepless in Seattle is a great movie to watch when you can’t sleep (snerk!) at 1am and you’re feeling lonely and wanting something to cheer you up while you stuff your gullet with Ritz crackers over-loaded with canned cheese. Verdict: Classic and fun, just don’t think about it too much or it’ll piss you off.

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