I don’t think that Sleepless in Seattle is a great romantic comedy. I didn’t really care for it when I first saw it, and after watching it again, I still feel it is not Nora Ephron’s best screenplay. The film was released in 1993, and I remember that people really seemed to like it, but I never understood why. Ms. Ephron also wrote When Harry Met Sally, which you may recall starred Meg Ryan, who is in this film along with Tom Hanks.
Sleepless in Seattle is really about an 8-year old boy named Jonah (Ross Malinger), whose mother has died 18 months ago, and who is now ready to have a new mother in his life. However, his father Sam (Tom Hanks) is not ready for a new wife. This is the part of the film that worked, seeing the relationship between Jonah and his father as they deal with the grief over the death of their mother/wife, and the hope that Jonah gives to his father for a future with a caring woman in it for both of them.
Jonah takes control, and calls a radio talk show from his home in Seattle on Christmas Eve, and speaks to Dr. Marcia Fieldstone about their dilemma. He gets his father on the phone, and thousands of women across America are touched by their plight as evidenced by the letters that are delivered to their doorstep with offers to become their new wife and mother.
In Baltimore, Annie (Meg Ryan) hears the segment on the radio. Although she is engaged to be married to Walter (Bill Pullman), she is intrigued by what she hears. Annie becomes obsessed with this man she's only heard speak on the radio, and writes a letter to Sam that her helpful friend Becky (Rosie O’Donnell) mails without her knowing. She eventually ends up flying to Seattle and stalks him. There are some sappy scenes where Sam sees Annie in the airport, and then sees her standing in the middle of the road during her stalking him down. I just don’t buy this whole theme. It is just not real.
Annie explains why she's going to Seattle to meet Sam as her having to do it so she doesn't go through life wondering if he could have been the one. I could see this happening if she already knew him (like someone from the past from high school or college for example), but she doesn't. She's only heard him on the radio. It's the part of the movie that just doesn't work for me.
Annie flies back to the East Coast without meeting Sam. Meanwhile poor little Jonah, desperate for a new mommy, writes to Annie pretending to be Sam, telling her to meet him at the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day. His friend Jessica gets him a plane ticket and Jonah flies off to New York alone to meet Annie. I was touched by Jonah’s confidence as he tells the taxi cab driver that he’s on his way to meet his new mother. Ah, the innocence and hope of a child.
Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are together in this film for probably all of five minutes. And yet people say what a wonderful film it was for them, what great chemistry they had. Are we watching the same film? They do have great chemistry together as actors, but not until You've Got Mail, a far superior romantic comedy I’ll review very soon.
Other things that just don’t work are Jonah’s little friend Jessica. She seems far older than him, can type and book plane tickets. Not believable. And the way Walter is portrayed is insulting. His only vice seems to be that he is allergic to just about everything. There has to be something more there to make us not like him, and it’s not provided. I don’t feel sorry for Walter; I feel sorry for Annie. She is delusional, goes off to stalk this man clear across the country, and we never get to see what happens after she meets up with Jonah and Sam. Her main complaint about Walter is he’s too perfect for her, they like all the same things, etc. And that’s a problem?
I did enjoy the music in the film. There were lots of great songs sung by Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, Carly Simon, Louis Armstrong and others. Parts were enjoyable, but the romance part between Annie and Sam is not what it's about. As I said, it’s really about the little boy wanting a new mom after he loses his mother, and how his father reacts to this. The romance is total fantasyland, and doesn’t work. If you’re looking for a good romantic comedy, don’t rent it. Try one of the other ones I’ve reviewed recently. They are far superior to Sleepless in Seattle.