Monday, January 19, 2015

Sleepless In Seattle (1993)

Photo Credit: Sleepless in Seattle/ TriStar Pictures
Having relocated from Chicago to Seattle following the loss of his wife, Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) is encouraged by his adolescent son to pour his feelings of grief to a sensationalist shrink over the radio. Across the country, in Baltimore, that very same evening, a newly engaged Annie (Meg Ryan) hears Sam's story and becomes increasingly infatuated that she could be the one for him.

Nora Ephron's Sleepless in Seattle poses us with the question: is someone you never met the one for you? Her main character Annie treks across the country to challenge the safe path she is on and to take a risk on a different kind of partner who may be able to satisfy her expectations (most of it being driven by classic romance movies). It's a brave and sorta hopeless romantic quest because she could end up looking crazy, or it could not work out all. There's a cutesy-allergy sensitive obstacle that stands in Annie's way: her fiance Walter. Currently involved in a relationship she never really questions, until her mother mentions that meeting Annie's father was magic.

As much as I admire Ephron's filmography, Annie's escapade comes off more as stalkerish, and weird, than insatiably naive and quirky (as Meg Ryan wonderfully plays her). Maybe it's worth it to some characters, or real persons, to go out of their way to see if there is another love out there for them...  I couldn't quite fall for her attempt at looking for other romantic possibilities, someone she never met before, when Walter is endearing, considerate, and thankfully, isn't imbued with condescending faults that make his imperfect personality a love or leave him an ultimatum.

Annie all but throws her engagement to Walter aside as if it's not living up to its potential, and Sam's voice over the radio becomes a preemptively created fantasy in her mind of what great love can be. It's sorta the fangirl's ultimate fantasy - to know a guy, find him, and everything works out. Ryan is truly enthusiastic and lively, but her efforts seem to cross the line of being attracted to a guy she never met and overstepping her bounds.

On the opposite end of the line, Sam is guarded and isn't ready to take chances for a new relationship. All he's known is Maggie, and once she's gone, he believes moving across the country will aid his grief. His friends are not hopeful nor entirely enthusiastic he'll find another Maggie but he gives a few dates and the possibility of getting laid a chance - just because everyone suggests he does it. Though Hanks delivers a rightfully sensitive performance, there's never really a deep exploration (as far as romantic movies go) for Sam to identify his loss - which keeps him literally sleepless in Seattle. For the magnitude of love that each character was aspiring to capture for themselves, neither one fully seems emotionally ready. Annie has a hard enough time hiding her one-sided infatuation with Sam from her fiance, it's hard to imagine how her first date w/ Sam will go: Oh yeah, I heard you on the radio and hired a private investigator to trail you out on dates and days off with your son.... Instead, their prospective romance comes off more like my favorite line from the film: Sam: Didn't you see Fatal Attraction? scared the shit out of me! It scared the shit out of every man in America!

Taking on the common theme that This Relationship Is Destiny, I didn't feel this iconic story translated very well. Director and writer Ephron tries to emulate this same kind of "magic" found in other films like An Affair to Remember (cited numerously by her characters) by invoking the same type of characteristics both Sam and Annie share: favorite Baseball players, separate friends talking about Cary Grant, believing that touching someone's hand you may know they are the one. There are plenty of cute moments that show how compatible they are with each other, but more of the storyline is Annie forcing her hand, Sam's son making all the arrangements, and Sam balancing his first fling since his wife passed away.

Relationships can be many things; a respectfully familiar yet full of love, lightning in a bottle, a lucky meeting of the minds or hearts labeled as fate, or an adventure in which you move mountains to find ( the latter of which is Annie's heartfelt, if not weird, quest). The possible romance for Sam and Annie never quite live up how Ephron injects the idea of that their meeting is destiny. Every woman wants to fall in love just like in the movies, and there's probably no one more than me that feels heartless for not going gaga over Sleepless In Seattle. Even the classic ending didn't inspire as much magic as it is known for.
Rating: ★☆☆
Have you seen Sleepless In Seattle? What are your thoughts?

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