Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sleepless In Seattle

 " That's your problem. You don't want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie. "

" It was like....magic. "

  Alfred Hitchcock once quipped ' It is only a movie. ' And of course the rotund one is right, they are only movies. This is both fortunate and unfortunate. Fortunate because after a Hollywood bloodbath we can all walk out in one piece. Or unfortunate in that we leave wishing that sometimes life mirrored the big screen. This is the power of cinema. It entertains, scares, moves, makes you laugh, cringe, squirm, hurl abuse at the screen, or heaven forbid, cry ( for those of you willing to admit to having done so! ).

 Well after four viewings over consecutive nights I'm in the ' unfortunate ' category with 1993's rom-com Sleepless in Seattle. Why? Because things like that don't happen in life do they? Well they might. But in all honesty what his film done for me was reinforce what cinema is ultimately about. Fantasy and making them happen, albeit for a few hours. And Sleepless in Seattle is a wonderful example of this fantasy and escapism.

 Now there are some film genres I don't really do. Musicals and horrors are on the bottom of the list. Romantic comedies I have avoided precisely because of films like this! In fact it wasn't until 1998 and Saving Private Ryan that I watched a Tom Hanks film! It was because in his early career he starred in such films as Big, Joe Versus the Volcano and Sleepless in Seattle which twenty years ago held no appeal. I never took to Meg Ryan because of the string of rom-coms she starred in as well. But time and age is a funny thing. And whilst sitting down in the middle of the night to watch a film like this 20 years ago wouldn't have happened, it isn't such a rare occurrence now. Suffice to say as I've gotten older I've got ( thankfully! ) a bit more eclectic in my tastes!

Is Fatal Attraction your favorite scary movie?!!
 I do remember this playing here and I cannot believe this is now 18 years old! It can be said that it is a modern classic even though not that old. But I do believe it deserves to be called a classic, and if not, then it is definitely one in the making. Well I think you can see where this is going can't you! Seriously I loved this film! I mean I looovvveeeed it! Which is unusual because rom-coms don't generally appeal to me and I don't seek out watching them very often. I'm not dismissive of the genre, its just that they aren't my cup of tea. But from time to time I do partake.

 Suffice to say once in a while a rom-com crops up that is actually pretty damned good. And I think Sleepless in Seattle not only a fine rom-com but an excellent film full stop. This is a film that I can't fault in anyway. It just works on all levels. The script is par excellence, the soundtrack is a genuine cracker, the acting superb ( especially that of Meg Ryan who I've never taken notice of ), well...just everything. This is a film that just got it all right. But at the same time I can't call it a masterpiece or even genuinely great. But it is memorable and once watched never to be forgotten. Which to my mind shows a film doesn't have to be entitled The Godfather or Gone With the Wind to make an impact.

 The wonderful thing here is that so many professional critics and film goers in general are dismissive of rom-coms as a genre. What I think Sleepless in Seattle has done is shown it is a valid genre and can produce some very, very good films. The thing I like most about this particular film is the script. It is pure romantic escapism to be sure ( which is its whole point of existence ). But it does it so well by incorporating the movie within a movie theme. Of course it builds itself around the classic Cary Grant/Deborah Kerr film An Affair to Remember of which it uses the theme song and various clips from.

 This inspiration is wonderfully parodied as the females in the film all gush over its romantic content. I went into hysterics when Rita Wilson's character Suzy went into tears as she described the film to her husband Sam and Jonah! Of course Sam spouts out ' sounds like a chick's movie!! 'The three of them all look at her in disbelief as she blubbers away and then go into tears themselves over The Dirty Dozen! The climatic scene where Sam and Annie meet on top of the Empire State Building is playing out the meeting that never happened in the Grant/Kerr film. This is such a great script where it uses a classic film and has the lives of its character mimicking that of another film. ( I loved the Fatal Attraction allusion as well!! ).  Sure it isn't an original premise and done many times before. But Sleepless in Seattle does it in its own way that is funny, heart warming and full of charm. In fact it was so good it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Screenplay ( but lost out to Jane Campion's The Piano ).

 The thing is to is that it doesn't get mushy or too sentimental. When a rom-com does that it tends to lose me. But this is the strength of Sleepless in Seattle in that it avoids the mush and keeps it grounded. It is sheer romantic escapism. It doesn't pull on the heart strings but plays on the viewers romantic streak. And just like the characters themselves watching Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, the viewer is feeling the same way about the movie they are watching with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. It is very clever and it works brilliantly.

 The cast is excellent which also helps! I get the feeling they knew they had a good script and that they were making a good film. It shows in the final product because it just has that warm fuzzy feeling to it. The cast has gotten into it and the vibe is palpable. There are of course five main players in the film, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Bill Pullman, Ross Malinger and Rosie O'Donnell. But for me personally the performances that really stood out ( even though they all compliment each other ) are from Ryan and O'Donnell. O'Donnell as Becky is superb! Her scenes are full of a droll, dry, subtle sense of humour that constantly had me in stitches! ( re-call her loving the dream of walking down the street naked!! )

 But Meg Ryan as Annie was the star for me. I've never really taken notice of her before because of the type of films she starred in. But after Sleepless in Seattle I certainly sat up and took notice. I just loved every scene she was in. At times her body language was superb as she expressed the doubts and frustrations of her character. ( Favorite? I liked the look over her shoulder at Becky as she walked out of her office after telling her obliquely she was going to Seattle ). It is no wonder she has been dubbed the ' soul of romantic comedy ', because she is just so damned good at it. The funny thing here is she won a comedy award for her performance and yet it is more Rosie O'Donnell who provided the comedy. But non the less, even though the film has a female bias audience wise, Ryan really stands out amongst a cast that was superb as well. And notice what a beautiful head of hair she had in the film! God I couldn't keep my eyes of it. And just as her character Annie was ' having fantasies about a man she hadn't even met ', I kept having fantasies of running my fingers through that blonde crop!

Such a great scene isn't it??!
 Once in a while I think we all watch a film that completely takes us by surprise. For me Sleepless in Seattle is just such a film. There really is nothing I can criticise about it. Sure I loved it, but I can criticise many films I love. But somehow Sleepless in Seattle just got it all right. The cast is superb, especially considering there are five main characters who all have a real input to the film. For me Meg Ryan was a particular highlight and I was enrapt with each and every scene she appeared in. But what really carries this film is the script. The film within a film aspect is especially well done. But what I liked the most was how it concurrently showed both Hanks and Ryan's character in two different cities and how their lives drew together. It is well conceived and played out. For me the script is one of the best, and most memorable, I've ever come across.

 But the final cherry on top is the fantastic score. Back in the Saddle Again, Love is the Answer, As Time Goes By, Stand By Your Man, etc. Ah what perfectly chosen songs which fit their respective scenes perfectly. But what I liked was how each is so gentle which mirrors the whole film. Anything too fast paced or racy just would not have fit. It really is a memorable score and I hummed along quite merrily to it!!! Yep this is a film that you can't resist. It's warmth, gentleness, and subtle humour just wraps itself around your heart and doesn't let go. I just haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I first watched it several nights ago. In fact I have watched it three times since! It is just so memorable. This is a film that you will never forget and one I think destined to become a true classic, if it hasn't done so already.

 In short..MAGIC!!!! A lovely gentle film with a truly great script. It satisfies on every level. I just wish life was like this at times! IMDB has this with 6.7/10. I'd give it 10/10 as a rom-com and a solid 8/10 as a stand alone film.

Click here for a synopsis and more:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleepless_in_Seattle

And here for more:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108160/

And click here for a site on the house Tom Hank's character lives in in the film. It doesn't look the same anymore and even the interior is different. There is a good link to a site when it was put on the market in 2008:

http://www.hookedonhouses.net/2010/02/14/sams-houseboat-in-sleepless-in-seattle/

5 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful piece of writing Brent and I'm sure I'll be back to read it many times in the future.
    I've been a fan of Sleepless In Seattle and Meg Ryan longer than I care to remember so it's nice to meet another guy who actually admits to liking this film.
    I totally agree with your observations on Meg, who I've always thought was criminally underrated. The Queen of rom-com tag definitely blinded a lot of people to how talented she really was, check her out in films like Flesh and Bone and Promised Land, and yes, her hair was incredible in this film.
    Sleepless gets 10/10 from me every time.

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  2. Thanks Paul for the kind words! Yeah this is a damn fine film and I just love it, love it, love it! I can't find anything to dislike about it and as a film it does everything right. I've watched it five nights in a row now and each time as it neared the end I went noooo..because I just didn't want it to end!
    But I like it to because I have a pretty soft heart and this film hit me right in the soft spot!

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  3. I absolutely love this film, excellent work Brent, glad we agree.

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  4. ALO...Hanks plays these nice guy roles well doesn't he?!!

    Matt...yep I loved this. It just got everything right.

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