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Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/9/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/15/2013
Romantic comedies have been a hot box-office draw...well forever, but they really came of age in the late 80s and the early 90s. Filmmakers were trying to create a better balance between the dramatic romantic elements of the movie and the humorous sections, which could be broadened to include more risque elements if needed. The period also saw more well-respected writers and directors entering the genre. The high-water mark was set with 1989's When Harry Met Sally, a film which was both moving and incredibly clever and funny. When Nora Ephron, the writer of that film, got behind the camera for 1993's Sleepless in Seattle, audiences expected a lot.
Sleepless in Seattle opens by introducing us to Sam (Tom Hanks), a man who has just lost his wife. He decides that he and his son, Jonah (Ross Malinger), need a change of scenery, so they move from Chicago to Seattle. The story then jumps ahead 18 months. Jonah calls a nationally syndicated radio advice show and explains that he would really like for his Dad to meet someone new. Sam gets on the phone and tells his story, which is heard by many people across the country. One such person is Annie (Meg Ryan), a reporter who has been spending the holidays with her fiance, Walter (Bill Pullman). Annie loves the simple life which she and Walter have created, but she finds herself strangely intrigued by Sam's story. As Jonah continues to try and find a way to push his father to reach out to the people who heard the radio show, Annie wonders if she should travel cross-country to look for love.
When Sleepless in Seattle arrived in theaters in 1993, there was definitely anticipation for the film. Hanks was a hot actor and while he had made many comedies with romantic elements, but he'd never waded into a full-on rom-com. Of course, Ryan had co-starred in When Harry Met Sally and fans were hoping for something similar from this new film. The two had previously appeared together in 1990's Joe Versus the Volcano, a movie which is much better than its reputation. Given that the movie brought in $126 million (in 1993), it's safe to say that the film was a hit and many fondly look back at it as a classic of the genre.
But, twenty years later, how does the film hold up? Having seen the film a few times, I tried to watch it through fresh eyes. One of the first things which jumps out is how Ephron is attempting to bring a meta viewpoint to the film. As the second half of the movie takes cues from 1957 An Affair to Remember, Sleepless in Seattle is a chick-flick which is about chick-flicks which is making comments on how chick-flicks can influence people. The other thing which really stands out is how awful Meg Ryan's costumes are in this movie. One can't even use the "Well, it was the 90s..." excuse. Those are simply ugly clothes.
As far as the story goes, the movie's raison d'etre is to show an improbable romance coming together. The entire premise is basically a romantic fantasy. However, the movie still comes off as far-fetched. Even in today's world, when you can find anyone on the internet, two people from opposite ends of the country finding one another feels like it is pushing the boundaries of believability. In addition, the movie falls more on the romance side than the comedy side. Yes, there are some funny moments here, provided by Hanks and When Harry Met Sally director Rob Reiner who appears in a cameo. If you go in expecting the kind of laughs and classic lines which one got from When Harry Met Sally, you will be disappointed.
Having said all of that, it sounds as if the movie hasn't aged well or that it doesn't deserve its reputation. Well, yes and no. The mixture of romance and Sam's grief produces a moving story which has emotional ups and downs. As usual, Hanks is great and it's interesting to see how he navigates being funny and depressed here. It's easy to forget just how well Ryan played these roles, but she is perfectly cast here, as she is goofy, but cute, making Annie lovable. (Speaking of casting, it's really interesting to see Rosie O'Donnell being so...feminine.) But, this is one of those movies where you remember specific scenes and when taken as a whole, it does move a bit slowly and the gaps between important/memorable scenes is noticeable. Sleepless in Seattle has certainly earned its place as an important part of Nora Ephron's career and in the pantheon of rom-coms.
Sleepless in Seattle never clarifies if Sam and Jonah live in a house or a houseboat on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Twilight Time. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing a fine sheen of grain and no defects from the source material. The image is somewhat dark, but the colors look fine. The level of detail is good, and the image has an acceptable amount of depth. For a movie which is twenty years old, Twilight Time has a done a fine job with the presentation. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The moments in New York and the "flyover" graphics bring in some surround sound, and we get musical cues from the rear speakers, but otherwise the bulk of the audio comes from the front and center channels.
The Sleepless in Seattle Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Nora and Delia Ephron. There is also an isolated musical score track. "Love in the Movies" (13 movies) is a featurette which looks at how our ideas of love are shaped by what we've seen in the movies. Using Sleepless in Seattle as a jumping-off point, we get a discussion of we speak in movie references and how the idea of love was approached in the film. We hear from Hanks, Ryan, Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron, as well as Dr. Drew and Adam Carolla. We get the MUSIC VIDEO for the song "When I Fall in Love" by Celine Dion and Clive Griffin. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.