Sleepless in Seattle review by Mike Long

I'm no film historian (trust me), but I'm fairly certain that throughout the history of movies, there have always been ones which were aimed at women. Some time in the past 15 years, someone decided to call these films "chick flicks" and it seems as if we get a new slew of them each year. Sleepless in Seattle may be the ultimate "chick flick", not necessarily because of its content (which is certainly female-centric), but due to the fact that it's not ashamed to acknowledge exactly what it is.

Sleepless in Seattle stars Tom Hanks as Sam Baldwin. As the film opens, Sam's wife has died and he decides to move from Chicago to Seattle, with his young son, Jonah (Ross Malinger), for a change of scenery. On Christmas Eve of the following year, Jonah calls a late-night radio-show to ask for help for his father, who seems very depressed. Sam then gets on the phone and talks about the loss of his wife and the ensuing depression. This show is heard by Annie Reed (Meg Ryan), who is all the way across the country in Baltimore, where she is spending Christmas with her fiance, Walter (Bill Pullman). Annie becomes obsessed with Sam and his story, and contemplates going to Seattle to meet him. Meanwhile, Sam is being deluged with love letters following his appearance on the radio. Jonah urges Sam to begin dating, and so, he does. But, when Jonah reads the letter which Annie sends to Sam, he decides that she is the one for his Dad. But, how can romance blossom between two complete strangers who are 3000 miles away and one is already engaged?

In case you're just joining us and you're a giallo fan, Sleepless in Seattle is not a sequel to Dario Argento's Non Ho Sonno set in the Pacific Northwest. No, Sleepless in Seattle is in fact a fairly good film which, according to the DVD box art, is "The Romantic Film That Started It All". Well, that proclamation certainly isn't true, as the film makes numerous references to 1957's An Affair to Remember, but Sleepless in Seattle does do a number of things to set it apart from other "chick flicks". For starters, this is one of the few romantic comedies where the main couple in question, here Sam and Annie, aren't together for the bulk of the film. It's an old genre ploy to create a situation where the audience longs for a couple to get together. Here, we just want them to be in the same time zone!

Sleepless in Seattle's other hallmark achievement is its own attitude about itself. With the references to An Affair to Remember, and the film's acknowledgement that men don't understand why that movie is so special, the movie is telling the audience, "You came to see a "chick flick", and we speak your language." Chapter 21 contains the classic scene in which Tom Hanks, and Victor Garber, who plays Sam's brother, attempt to understand the importance of An Affair to Remember and compare it to The Dirty Dozen. The film's understanding that men and women like very different films at times, doesn't mean that Sleepless in Seattle is just for women, although it certainly comes close. The saving grace here is the performance by Hanks, who displays what I like to call "the old Tom Hanks", who wasn't afraid to get loose and crazy on-screen. Calling Sleepless in Seattle a romantic-comedy, as there aren't that many laughs in the film, but Hanks manages to liven things up with some choice moments. Rob Reiner has a nice cameo where he always contributes some much-needed comedy to the film. And while Sleepless in Seattle certainly has its high-points, the film's fatal flaw is Annie's fiance, Walter. Or more specifically, the casting of Bill Pullman as Walter. Despite the flaws which Walter displays in the film, Pullman is such a likable guy that the audience may dislike Annie for wanting to leave him for a total stranger. Sleepless in Seattle may be the ultimate chick flick, but for me, it will always live in the shadow of the far superior When Harry Met Sally

Sleepless in Seattle flies cross-country onto DVD from Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment, who have just re-released the film onto DVD in a 10th Anniversary Edition. This was an odd movie, as this release is identical to the Special Edition DVD which premiered in September, 1999, and has all of the same features. This 10th Anniversary Edition disc contains both the full-frame and widescreen versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The DVD contains an anamorphic transfer of the film, which has been letterboxed at 1.85:1. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a minor amount of grain at times. However, there are some noticeable moments of artifacting here and the image is quite soft at times. The colors are good and the image is stable throughout the film. The DVD contains only a Dolby Digital Stereo audio track, which is surprising in this age when everything gets a 5.1 re-mix. This track provides clear dialogue and impressive stereo effects, but is wholly unremarkable.

As noted above, the special features are exactly the same as the 1999 release of Sleepless in Seattle. We start with an audio commentary from co-writer/director Nora Ephron and associate producer Delia Ephron. This is an informative track, despite the fact that the participants were apparently recorded separately and then had their comments edited together. They speak at length about the production of the film and impart some interesting nuggets about how the films original concepts evolved into the finished product. In a great line, Nora Ephron claims that she told Meg Ryan to play Annie as "A Republican who's never had an orgasm." Classic. Next up is a 13-minute documentary entitled Love in the Movies, which examines Sleepless in Seattle, but also looks at how we compare real-life love to on-screen romance and how this effects our expectations. There is a music video for the song When I Fall in Love by Celine Dion and Clive Griffin, talent files, and finally, the theatrical trailer for Sleepless in Seattle.


6 out of 10 Jackasses

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