Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Well, hell. I had gotten out of going to see When Harry Met Sally. And it’s not that I don’t like that movie, but I don’t find myself nostalgic for the “great” movies of the past—well, honestly, not for any of the movies released in my lifetime. I tend to assume I regarded them as better than they were, just because of them being au courant, which makes rediscovering films like The Jerk and Young Frankenstein all the more pleasant. But The Boy had taken His Girl had gone to see it and his verdict: “It’s funny. It’s good as a comedy. But the characters aren’t interesting.”

Harsh, but fair.

She didn't mean to wreck the romcom.
Misty-eyed Meg Ryan agrees.

On the other hand, When Harry Met Sally is considered something of a classic whereas Sleepless in Seattleisn’t, although it probably is the best film Nora Ephron directed.  Anyway, after seeing An Affair To Remember, it was sort of mandatory and we actually all rather liked it, with the references to the classic Grant/Kerr film giving the film a bit of a lift, as it was so fresh in our minds. Some random points of interest:

  • Unlike when I first saw it, I knew just about every single song in the film by heart—those are my jams now! Not those renditions, which were (and still are) hipper and more contemporary than what I listen to (which is pre-WWII recordings) but, hey, that doesn’t happen often at all.
  • Nora really liked “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, didn’t she? She uses Ray Charles’ version here and I think she used Willie Nelson’s in You’ve Got Mail. At almost the exact same point in the narrative, if memory serves.
  • Holy crap: The cars in 1993 were ridiculously ugly. You see a lot of ugly cars in movies made since the late ’60s/early ’70s, but there are always a lot of pretty ones around as well, too, from earlier eras. In 1993, they’re all boxy crap. A reminder that Federal regulation (whether American or Soviet) ends up making cars like the Yugo and the Trabant.
  • Pretty sure Meg Ryan is nuts. Hard to believe, at this point, she was America’s sweetheart.
  • I don’t mean the actress. I’m agnostic there. But her character is a stalker who abuses the power of the Internet (just pre-web! so a high-tech stalker!) to hunt down her widower.
  • Cute to have a misunderstanding with Rita Wilson, considering she had been his wife for about 5 years at the time.
  • Holy cow! Tom Hanks has two kids from a previous marriage! (Previous to Rita.)
  • Tiramisu! Ha, I didn’t know what that was either! But when I found out I did love it!

But I digress.

I would, too. Wouldn't you?
Rita Wilson protects her man from a predatory Meg Ryan.

The movie works somehow. It probably shouldn’t. As I mentioned in my Affair review, the “Ephron Apartheid”, where romances and just plain romcoms end up being chick flicks, while not Ephron’s fault, probably, can be seen here—as Ryan’s character is objectively unhinged. Unethical. And really, really self-absorbed. This is a dramatic change over Affair, where the characters’ senses of ethics and concern for each other is the cause of their misery, here our characters are the guy who doesn’t really know what’s going on, and the gal who (at least rightly) realizes the perfect man isn’t the her perfect man, at least in part because she’s chasing unicorns.

It’s romance not just swept up in passion, but completely un-moored from reality.

It's a little weird, is what I'm saying.
“Let’s just let her keep the teddy bear and get out of here.”

Despite all this, it works. The gags are nice. And it does have that old-time feel, in the sense that it knows its job is to keep you entertained. A lot of recent movies—the ones that have really taking the “save the cat” thing to heart—seem to be padding in-between set pieces. This really wants each scene to say something. It does rely heavily on the charms of Hanks and Ryan, perhaps more than Affair relies on the charms of Grant and Kerr, but we shan’t be churlish about that: Romance movies (comedy or otherwise) can’t work without heaping helpings of charisma, and this movie fades out before any of the awkward questions need to be asked.

So, yeah, we all gave it thumbs up, which is actually pretty high praise.

One of the first people I ever chatted with online was the delightful Mary Ann Madden, who was good friends with Nora Ephron (and a lot of luminaries from the ’60s and ’70s, as I later learned). She had gotten cancer in the late ’70s/early ’80s and someone had set her up with CompuServe, so she could interact with people while recovering. How early an adopter was she? Her handle (’cause it was like CB-radio, so we had “handles”) was darling@aol.com. (Update: She was obviously an early AOL adopter, too. Her CS address was in that funky octal form they used, like 70303,373.)  She suggested to me that a certain “reticence” was wise, as far as divulging personal details online goes. (It’s good advice, even if I took it to extremes. Like, this blog being the first place I mentioned I had kids, even to online people with whom I had worked for over a decade. Heh.)

I think about her often and I could never track her down post-Compuserve. I thought about her again writing this review and discovered she had died last summer of a stroke. It’s sad, but she was 82 and the cancer never did get her, so I’m at least happy she beat that. Godspeed, Mary Ann.

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