Tuesdays in September here in the vault have been designated as an In Memorium series featuring celebrities lost in 2012. Today I’d like to shine a light on writer, producer, director Nora Ephron by covering her highest-grossing feature.
On Christmas Eve, a year and a half after losing his mother to cancer, Jonah Baldwin (Ross Malinger) calls up a national talk radio program in search of a new wife for his despondent father, Sam (Tom Hanks). The heartbreaking story told by Sam, dubbed Sleepless in Seattle by the host, infatuates hundreds of impassioned women across the country, including recently engaged Baltimore reporter, Annie Reed (Meg Ryan). Annie’s deeply in love with her delicate beau Walter (Bill Pullman), but finds herself drawn, as if by magic, to this somber man she’s never met.
Sleepless in Seattle is Nora Ephron’s second project as a director and one which she co-wrote with David S. Ward and Jeff Arch. The idea is inspired by An Affair to Remember, a film which I’ve never seen. Come to think of it, I’m fairly certain this is the first time I’ve ever watched Sleepless from beginning to end. It’s one of those movies I’ve caught so many snippets of that I could have counted it, but now I can legitimately.
For what’s billed as a romantic comedy, Sleepless begins as a serious downer. This being the second vault review featuring Hanks, I am reminded how much I admire him as an actor. He juggles grieving widow, loving and occasionally frustrated father, and hopeless romantic. Ryan, portraying the other hopeless romantic, captures the emotional frustration over whether she remain with her sensible, perfect fiancé or take a leap of faith into the arms of a fantasy. One beef I do have towards Sleepless which takes it into deep sappy waters is Pullman’s Walter who, despite his ailments, is flawless. It makes the romance that much more poetic, but at the cost of believability. Sleepless at least takes pride in its exaggeration by letting Annie’s friend, Becky (Rosie O’Donnell), accuse her of not wanting to be in love, but wanting to be in love in a movie.
O’Donnell and Pullman aren’t the only recognizable supporting cast members providing wisdom and laughs. Hanks’ wife Rita Wilson plays his sister, Suzy, with Victor Garber in tow as her onscreen hubby, Greg. Rob Reiner pops in to chuckle it up with Hanks as Sam’s bud Jay who offers much-needed dating advice which comes in handy when Sam begins dating Victoria (Barbara Garrick). They all contribute levity as we anxiously await the stars of the would-be lovers to uncross. Helping in that regard is the continuous meddling by Sam’s audacious son, Jonah.
Having finally sat down and watched Sleepless in Seattle in sequence and uninterrupted, I see why Lauren names it as her favorite Ephron project and why it makes Kai’s Top 5 Films: (Written By) Nora Ephron. Ephron’s film emphasizes how men and women view romance differently by repeatedly referencing its inspiration, An Affair to Remember. Like many guys, I may roll my eyes while watching some hokey romantic comedies, but that’s only when one fails to captivate me. The magic of Sleepless in Seattle draws two people from opposite coasts together and men and women from across the country into its charming story.