I have been an enthusiast of rom-com movies for most of my life. I love the idea of finding your true love through a chance meeting. Then your eyes lock on each other, and boom! Sparks fly, and love is everywhere. I believe in signs. If it is meant to be, the universe will find a way to make it happen…even if it takes several tries. I remember my mom allowed me to watch a film that was way too old for me to see at the tender age of nine. I am unsure of the title, but I remember the lusty, love scenes. It stayed with me for years. I don’t think it scared me, but it did leave a lasting imprint.
I do believe in love at first sight. It can happen if you are lucky and open. I met my second husband this way. I was looking for boots for a high school play I was directing. I found what I needed and so much more. Not every critic will agree with me about my choice this week, but in my heart, SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE is one of my all-time favorite romance stories and perfect for Valentine’s Day.
I have watched SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE hundreds of times since it premiered in 1993. It was co-written and directed by Nora Ephron. She is the queen of creating romance movies. It is the highest-grossing movie of all the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan combo films. The two of them had, maybe, five minutes of filming together. And during all their scenes together, they did not share a kiss. They just “knew.” This is great acting since Rita Wilson, Tom’s wife of five years then, was also in the movie playing his sister, Suzy. SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE has been nominated over several different years in the romantic comedy genre with the American Film Institute. Tom Hanks was also nominated for an Oscar for his role as Sam but lost to himself as Best Actor in PHILADELPHIA (those were pretty good odds, he would take home the gold statue).
The tagline for SIS sums up the entire plot. “What if someone you never met, someone you never saw, someone you never knew, was the someone for you?” This is how Sam and Annie find each other across the United States. Annie is engaged to Walter (Bill Pullman), and Sam is a grieving widower with an eight-year-old son, Jonah (Ross Malinger). What are the chances they could find each other if not for the antics and determination of Jonah? He calls a talk show radio station one night because he is worried his dad is lonely and unhappy. The segment goes viral, and thousands of letters reach Sam and Jonah. As a result, they are nicknamed SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE. Annie hears the dialogue on the radio, and she can’t get this man out of her head and heart. She turns her life upside down, not knowing what to do. The rest is a fast-paced race to the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day. It is a glorious climax. It is sweet, loving, daring, romantic, and totally “magic.” When he gently takes her hand and says, “Shall we go?” my soul is soaring. I cannot get through this film without shedding tears. Every single time. Their surprised looks at each other signal a sigh of wonderment heard throughout the universe. It was written in the stars. Ohh, I so believe. Did I mention that Tom and Meg have enough chemistry together they could power the Hoover Dam?
The ensemble includes Rob Reiner, Rosie O’Donnell, David Hyde Pierce, Victor Garber, and Frances Conroy. Stellar casting. The costumes make me smile with remembering those oversized pants, dresses, and coats. They suit Annie’s character. The location shots of Baltimore, New York City, Chicago, and Seattle were perfect. A few of my favorite scenes were the two on the water docks in Baltimore and Seattle. They were beautifully filmed side by side, and of course, there was Sam’s magnificent houseboat. Stunning to see the other boats casually gliding by, all lit up for the holidays. This houseboat does exist, and one year I was in charge of a student tour to Seattle, where I insisted one of our many stops was to see that specific location. It did not disappoint. I must also mention my obsession with Annie’s hair and her lovely French braiding. It added another layer to who she was, along with her uncanny ability to peel an apple. It was as if the writers wanted the viewers to get to Annie’s core in a unique fashion.
SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE also featured scenes from the 1957 movie AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. A film that most women of a certain age can quote full dialogues. It is tied together in a lovely package. Kudos to Rita Wilson for describing the plot to Sam and her movie husband in a crazy scene. It is hysterical, like the improvised moments that follow remembering THE DIRTY DOZEN.
SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE is meant to be shared by lovers and by people who believe in the power of finding your true love. It combines pure escapism and comedy at its best. When Jimmy Durante sings the opening and closing numbers, you know you are in for a delightful, entertaining treat. “Make just one person happy, and you will be happy too.” I am. Every time I watch this film, I smile and believe love is possible. Everything is possible. All it takes is letting go and permitting all the magic surrounding us. Some might say it is silly or impossible. I say SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE is the perfect date night movie. It is a true classic that will whisk you away, especially on February 14th.
SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE is available to rent or buy. I already bought my copy decades ago.