I really love Nora Ephron. Really really love her work, most especially her Meg Ryan trilogy, from the amazing “When Harry met Sally…” (which she wrote for Rob Reiner to direct) to “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail”, which team the sweet Ryan with the equally sweet Tom Hanks. It’s the kind of movies that reach your emotional core and your dreams and make you feel alive by showing you how good life can be despite the little setbacks.
Tom Hanks plays Sam Baldwin, a mild-mannered architect who had the good luck of finding true love and living years of happiness married to her and giving birth to little Jonah. But life can also be harsh sometimes, and Sam eventually loses his beloved wife to cancer. Inconsolable, he decides to move to Seattle to try and forget his soulmate was taken away from him. It’s hard of course… real hard. Sam still achieves to keep a little hope that things will get better. “I’m going to get out of bed, and breath in and out all day long. Then after a while, I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed and breath in and out.” Yet he can’t even sleep, and his son starts worrying. So on Christmas night, Jonah calls a radio psychiatrist to tell her he wants his dad to find a new wife. Sam eventually get on the line, and his confession is incredibly moving.
Moving enough to touch reporter Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) all the way across the USA in Baltimore. The movie’s oh so romantic theory is that two people can be meant to be together, and that something like a radio show can put them on a crash course towards each other, as Annie writes to Sam and gives him a rendezvous on top of Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day, just like in her favorite movie “An Affair to Remember”. Sweet, eh? Sweet enough to warm your heart and make you believe again in love. What makes the movie even better is that Nora Ephron is not just romantic: she’s also one hip chick! She nicely fringes her film with hilarious little moments, wonderful characters and sharp satire, making “Sleepless in Seattle” a rather cool, modern flick that even guys will like! More than being a great writer, Ephron is also a talented director. Her film is lively and well-crafted, and she gives it a very romantic mood with dreamy photography and evocative songs like “As Time Goes By”, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and other classic numbers.
And what about the acting! Meg Ryan has became the embodiment of the girl in ’90s chick flicks, and she deserves to be. She’s so cute and lovable, and funny, and sweet… And she can act! Tom Hanks is her perfect match, as he’s probably the most likable male lead in Hollywood. Women want to be with him, men want to be him… He carries both manliness and sensitivity, comic timing and dramatic range. What’s ironic is that people kept talking about how good Hanks and Ryan were together, but they barely have any screen time together! The movie goes back and forth between him and her, as they go about their lives on opposite sides of the continent waiting to meet. Ephron had the good idea of pairing them with wisecracking buddies who challenge the leads’ uncompromising idea of true love. Hanks hangs with a man’s man played by Rob Reiner who teaches him how to date in the 90s, while Ryan receives no-nonsense, cynical advice from a girlfriend played by Rosie O’Donnell. On the other hand, I didn’t care much for the characters of the annoying broad Hanks dates (Dana Ivey) for a while and the boring guy Ryan is engaged to (Bill Pullman). These characters are there only to show that they’re the wrong match for the leads. But they’re so uncharming that it’s a wonder how Ryan and Hanks could hook with such losers!
Still, it’s not enough to take away how romantic and enjoyable “Sleepless in Seattle” is. It’s a chick flick alright, and a wonderful one.