Sleepless in Seattle

I have nothing against unabashedly romantic films. When done right, with at least slightly evident restraint, they can be engaging, sweeping, appealing. But it’s a hell of a shame when someone botches it as badly as Nora Ephron botched Sleepless in Seattle, a hollow, boring romance that should appeal only to the most gullible of viewers; the ones willing to buy into Ephron’s whiny views of life and romance.

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Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, two of Hollywood’s most likeable stars play Sam Baldwin and Annie Reed, repectively. Baldwin’s wife recently died and he moved to Seattle with his son, Jonah, seeking to get away from the familiar surroundings which remind him of his late spouse. Jonah senses tension and calls a talk radio show to tell the world about their problems. Sam seems ready to strangle his son for calling the show, but when he gets on the phone he begins pouring his heart out.

Ephron has him do this so that Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) can hear it. Annie is a happy woman. She is engaged to Walter, an allergy-prone working man and seems to be perfectly content. But after hearing Sam the widower on the radio show, she becomes convinced that he is her destiny and is willing to risk her engagement for it.

Five years after this movie hit theaters, Hanks, Ryan and Ephron would team up again in the far better, although still sub-par romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail, which is about people who hate each other in real life falling in love on the internet. At least that movie had a sense of spontaneity. Here it seems that the first one hundred minutes exist solely to set up for the last five. The fact that Sam and Annie will finally meet is so excruciatingly obvious that everything else is perfunctory.

Sleepless in Seattle is full of wonderful performers; from its two leads to supporting stars like Bill Pullman and Rosie O’Donnell. But none of them can save the film from being a bore. Its characters are dull and empty, its script isn’t funny or particularly charming. The script has a fundamental problem: Annie gives up, for little reason, her life with Walter to pursue “Sleepless in Seattle,” whom she has never even seen. It’s the kind of life decision that real people don’t make, and its a major, unforgivable plausibility sacrifice.

In essence, this movie’s purpose is to head towards a goal that shouldn’t even exist. It’s a ten minute short film with ninety-five minutes of filler. If you were to show me Sleepless In Seattle and I didn’t have to review it, you could just call me “Asleep in Philadelphia.”

-- Eugene Novikov

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Screening Log

Snitch

Ric Roman Waugh, 2013

Score: C

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh, 2013

Score: C+

10 Years

Jamie Linden, 2012

Score: B-

The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance, 2013

Score: B+

Warm Bodies

Jonathan Levine, 2013

Score: C

Beautiful Creatures

Richard LaGravanese, 2013

Score: B-

The Window

Ted Tetzlaff, 1949

Score: B+

The Chase

Arthur Ripley, 1946

Score: B

Street of Chance

Jack Hively, 1942

Score: C

The Taste of Money

Im Sang-Soo, 2013

Score: C+

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