Dec 31, 2014

Review: Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

I've never seen Sleepless in Seattle which too surprising I guess. My girlfriend had never seen it either though and I've been poking fun at her these past few days with good reason. One of her favourite movies of all time is You've Got Mail which she will stop her life for if it is on TV. She adores Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan who also star in YGM and she even loves a few other Nora Ephron movies as well. You can easily see why she deserved every dig.

Maybe I should be made fun of too for being a movie guy and never seeing it? Maybe, but you could probably find better movies to laugh at me for if you ask me. After seeing Love Affair and An Affair to Remember which SiS is inspired by, I'm getting closer to having seen all of this series of films now. I'm just missing the 1994 remake as well as some particularly unappetizing Bollywood remakes.


Genre: comedy, drama, romance
Directed by: Nora Ephron
Produced by: Gary Foster, Patrick Crowley, Lynda Obst, etc. 
Written by: Nora Ephron, David S. Ward, Jeff Arch
Music by: Marc Shaiman
Running time: 106 minutes
Production company: TriStar Pictures
Distributed by: TriStar Pictures, Columbia TriStar Film, Columbia TriStar Films de España, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $21,000,000
Box office: $227,799,884 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Bill Pullman, Ross Malinger, Rosie O'Donnell, Gaby Hoffmann, Victor Garber, Rita Wilson, Barbara Garrick, Carey Lowell, David Hyde Pierce, Dana Ivey, Rob Reiner, Kevin O'Morrison, Caroline Aaron, Tom Riis Farrell, Valerie Wright, Frances Conroy



Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) recently lost his wife (Carey Lowell) to cancer and decides that he needs a change of scenery. He and his eight year-old son Jonah (Ross Malinger) then move from Chicago to Seattle. However even a year and a half later, Sam is still depressed which prompts Jonah to place a call to radio station host Dr. Marcia Fieldstone (Caroline Aaron), asking for a new wife on air for his father. Dr. Fieldstone then asks Sam a few questions regarding his current life and his deceased wife which charms thousands of women across the country, including a certain Annie Reed (Meg Ryan).


Signs and destiny seem to play a pretty big part in Sleepless in Seattle. Certain events like a ripped dress to inadvertent quoting from a film scene are motivational tools for Meg Ryan's character Annie Reed. The film in question is of course An Affair to Remember, which Annie has an obsession with. Ephron avoids turning Sleepless in Seattle into some sort of romantic fate story by thankfully not taking these aspects too seriously.

I do want to bring more attention to how An Affair to Remember is so over exalted in SiS though. There are multiple characters who shed tears over An Affair to Remember in some pretty cheesy scenes and if I hadn't seen the movie before watching Sleepless, I don't think I would've wanted to see it now. Now I can understand why people say An Affair to Remember is the "ultimate chick flick" and I can also tell you that it deserves better than that. It deserves better than the boatload of crocodile tears it gets in SiS.

All the same, the meeting at the Empire State Building is nicely worked in and this is where the movie truly finds its feet. The climax and what ensues is also hard to resist, even for a hardened cynic I should think. (Spoilers) I also have to say that for a movie that both main love interests pretty much never have any screen time together until the end, it works surprisingly well and I give Nora Ephron full credit for making the story work in that sense. Building a credible relationship usually takes time to build rapport between both characters and incredibly that happens at a distance in SiS. (End Spoilers)

Tom Hanks is the performance that truly shines in this film. He's able to carry some pretty poignant drama scenes regarding the death of his character's wife and he also brings his usual brand of comedy as well. Meg Ryan is also pretty good, but in my opinion she does flub a couple of dramatic scenes where her tears and emotion never truly seem genuine. The supporting cast is very well rounded though with Bill Pullman for example who is quite entertaining.

One of the biggest strengths that Sleepless in Seattle has however is the dialogue. The way in which relationships are talked about is refreshingly mature. There's a certain talk Sam Baldwin has with Jonah regarding a woman he's dating that's absolute gold in its wisdom. This kind of maturity is rare in Hollywood and it was a very pleasant surprise.

In terms of when to watch Sleepless, Christmas and New Year's works the best. Valentine's Day is actually also included in the story, but on a lesser scale. For the best effect, I'd recommend watching it between mid-December early January. 

While there are some problems with Sleepless in Seattle, the sum of its parts is what truly makes it a worthwhile movie. I probably could've done without the inclusion of scenes from An Affair to Remember as well as its general adoration, but I'd have still kept the scenes that were inspired by it. Tom Hanks is great as always which partially offsets a hot and cold Meg Ryan. By far the best element of the film is the irresistible climax and conclusion.



Related Reviews:

Love Affair (1939)
An Affair to Remember (1957)
Mann (1999) 

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