Sleepless in Seattle somehow still works despite a fundamental flaw in its script: The characters spend almost no time together! They meet in the last scene of the movie. Much of the fun of a romcom is experiencing the chemistry — the swoon — between the leads; and we know from both Joe Versus the Volcano and You’ve Got Mail that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have amazing chemistry. Why build a movie around them falling in love only to get, like, 2 minutes of them onscreen together?
Despite that structural handicap, and a few other annoyances, Sleepless in Seattle still cobbles together into something delightful. Writer and director Nora Ephron has both an eye and an ear for pining romance, constructing a magnetic pull between two separated characters so strong it gives you the goosebumps.
It doesn’t hurt when your leads are two juggernauts of All-American charm: Hanks, playing a big-hearted widowed dad trying to rekindle love; Ryan, a slightly obsessive reporter afraid of settling for less than The One (though can you really call prime Bill Pullman “settling”?). Both can steal your heart with a single longing glance or aching line delivery; both are so good that they manage to constantly build the tension for their inevitable rooftop meeting.
The comedy is hit-or-miss for me: There’s way too much “men-Mars-women-Venus” jokes, and that that little kid sure is annoying. But the supporting cast is strong throughout, and there’s a fun cadence to the dialogue. Rita Wilson’s monologue about An Affair to Remember is a hall-of-famer for me, in particular.
So it’s still definitely worth a watch. It’s not hard to see why it’s such an enduring hit, even if parts of it are a time capsule. I laughed and I cheered. But I will never quite get over Hanks and Ryan being pulled apart for all but the last scene.
- Review Project: Tom Hanks Retrospective
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.