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Sleepless In Seattle(1993)
A recently-widowed man's son calls a radio talk show in an attempt to find his father a partner.
For more about Sleepless In Seattle and the Sleepless In Seattle Blu-ray release, see Sleepless In Seattle Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on July 18, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Ross Malinger, Rita Wilson, Victor Garber, Carey Lowell
Director: Nora Ephron
» See full cast & crew
Sleepless In Seattle Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, July 18, 2013
When Nora Ephron died in June 2012 from pneumonia brought on by her long (if largely secret) battle with leukemia, she was eulogized as one of the protean talents of her generation. Ephron was the daughter of Henry and Phoebe Ephron, both established writers and scenarists, and Ephron was of course sibling to three sisters who themselves became notable writers. Nora Ephron emerged as perhaps (perhaps) the most widely recognized of her siblings due to her rather piquant writing style. Her filmography is surprisingly varied, especially considering the fact that over the course of a little more than 25 years, Ephron was involved in one way or another in "only" fifteen films. Of these, her legacy is probably most solidly tied to her romantic comedies, notably When Harry Met Sally, You've Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle. (This is not to minimize some of Ephron's other films, which include everything from Silkwood to Julie & Julia.) Much like her later You've Got Mail, which can trace its source material back through the play Parfumerie, which ultimately became the Ernst Lubitsch film The Shop Around the Corner and then the musical film In the Good Old Summertime, and, decades later, the Broadway musical She Loves Me, Ephron's Sleepless in Seattle (which itself has been musicalized to not especially good effect) has a notable antecedent, in this case the well-remembered 1957 tearjerker An Affair to Remember. While the Cary Grant – Deborah Kerr film used a rather disturbing accident to keep its lovers from meeting, Sleepless in Seattle uses a perhaps more believable gambit, namely the everyday chaos that seems to swirl around many people's lives. A grieving widower, his precocious son, and a lovelorn albeit engaged woman circle each other precariously for much of the film's running time, and if the ultimate outcome is never really in much doubt, getting to the top of the Empire State Building proves to be a largely enjoyable enterprise in one of Ephron's sweetest pieces of writing.
Chance and fate, those twin Janus heads adorning flip sides of the same coin, are front and center throughout Sleepless in Seattle, something that may tend to annoy some (most likely males) while entrancing others (most likely females). Sleepless in Seattle relies on an inordinate amount of delaying tactics to get to its preordained happy ending, and while that may well entice unbridled romantics, it may push more cynical types to the point of screaming at the screen. As they make clear in their commentary, both Nora and Delia Ephron tweaked the script for Sleepless in Seattle repeatedly before it was finally in a workable format, but even they couldn't escape this one salient "gimmick" around which the entire plot of the film hinges: the would be lovers must not meet until the last conceivable moment. This becomes an almost unbearable delaying of gratification.
For those who have never seen this film (are there any, considering the film's remarkable popularity?), Sleepless in Seattle deals with recently widowed architect Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks), an urban professional who now must attempt to parent his precocious son Jonah (Ross Malinger) alone. Wanting a change of scenery, Sam uproots Jonah from their Chicago home and moves to Seattle. A year and a half later, Sam is still not over the death of his wife, at which point fate—and Jonah—intervene. Jonah calls into to one of those radio psychiatric help shows (think Dr. Laura, only without repeated use of the "n" word) and manages to persuade his father to get on the phone, too, to discuss his lingering emotional depression. Sam is dubbed "Sleepless in Seattle" by the host, and millions of tearful women around the country listen to Sam as he relays the devastation he's experiencing. One of these is Baltimore reporter Annie Reed (Meg Ryan), who takes a page out of An Affair to Remember and dashes off a note to Sam suggesting that they meet atop the Empire State Building on Valentine's Day. Annie actually thinks better about mailing the note, but fate—and her best friend Becky (Rosie O'Donnell)—intervene, and the note is delivered, albeit to Jonah, who is screening the piles of mail his father's radio appearance has engendered.
Several intervening factors keep happily ever after from occurring too easily or in fact too soon. Annie is engaged to well meaning but kind of boring Walter (Bill Pullman) while Sam begins dating a coworker named Victoria (Barbara Garrick), a woman with whom Jonah is less than thrilled. Jonah decides to take matters into his own hands and answers Annie's letter, agreeing to a rooftop meeting, which sets the rest of the frankly preposterous plot into motion. Will the would be lovers ever meet? What will happen to their current romantic entanglements? It really doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess the answers to these less than pressing questions.
It may be heresy to admit it, but for these reasons Sleepless in Seattle, as charming and at times wonderfully funny as it undeniably is, has been my least favorite of Nora Ephron's rom-coms. I much prefer the acidity of When Harry Met Sally or even the sweet if just as unlikely neo-modern updating of You've Got Mail. The film is bright and breezy, but it's so contrived (as in fact many romantic comedies tend to be) that it strains credulity to the breaking point. But perhaps that's part of the very point Sleepless in Seattle seeks to make. This is a romantic comedy film for film lovers, as evidenced by the constant references to An Affair to Remember. Happily ever after appears far too infrequently in real life, so if it in fact is slightly—or maybe even more than slightly—delayed in this entry, it seems downright curmudgeonly to quibble much about it.
Sleepless In Seattle Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sleepless in Seattle is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Twilight Time (utilizing a high definition master provided to them by Sony – Columbia), with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. In the "strange bedfellows" arena, Sleepless in Seattle was lensed by none other than Sven Nykvist, the iconic cinematographer most associated with the legendary Ingmar Bergman. Nykvist tends to favor a slightly glossy, if also softer, look throughout the film which is wonderfully reproduced in this high definition presentation. I hadn't seen the film in several years before watching it again it in preparation for this review, and I had forgotten how kind of dark and drab several sequences are (perhaps perfectly in tune with the rainy climes of the Pacific Northwest, a region I myself call home). That said, contrast remains very strong throughout this offering, and shadow detail is rarely if ever compromised. The transfer retains a natural amount of grain, colors are nicely saturated (if never overly robust), and fans of this film will certainly be very well pleased with the result.
Sleepless In Seattle Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Sleepless in Seattle features a nicely rendered lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 that really springs to surround life during the ubiquitous use of source cues. Otherwise, dialogue is fairly resolutely anchored front and center, with only occasional effects like urban ambient environmental effects dotting the side and occasionally rear channels. Fidelity remains excellent throughout, though dynamic range is somewhat narrow.
Sleepless In Seattle Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sleepless In Seattle Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Is Sleepless in Seattle patently unbelievable? Probably, but it's also incredibly charming and sweetly touching, helmed rather well by Ephron herself and featuring several incredibly winning performances, not just by the leads but also by a really game and varied supporting cast. As one of the characters disparages An Affair to Remember in this film, calling it a "chick flick", women may be more immune to Sleepless in Seattle's plot machinations, but anyone of either gender who has pined after their own happy ending will surely have their heartstrings tugged by this gently amusing film. Highly recommended.
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