Sleepless in Seattle, a timeless classic, marked the second pairing between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the Nora Ephron film.
New York City may be the city that never sleeps but there’s no sleeping in Seattle. I kid, I kid. But seriously though, this film is recognized as one of the top romantic comedies of all time. The film hits all the basic genre beats while featuring the classic ending on top of the Empire State Building. How cannot it not get more romantic than that?
Chicago architect Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) starts a new life in Seattle with his son, Jonah (Ross Malinger), after losing his wife to cancer. On the east coast, Baltimore Sun reporter Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) is engaged to Walter Jackson (Bill Pullman). A year and a half later, Jonah calls into a radio show in hopes of kick-starting his father’s love life. Annie just happens to be listening to the program. Despite her engagement to Walter, she might be falling out of love with him. After watching an Affair to Remember, Annie decides to write Sam a letter and asks to meet on top of the Empire State Building. Annie doesn’t place the letter in the mail but her editor, Becky (Rosie O’Donnell), sends it in the mail.
Jonah reads the letter after Sam starts dating Victoria (Barbara Garrick)–Jonah doesn’t like her. But yet it’s not enough to convince his dad. Having seen Fatal Attraction earlier this year, one can understand Sam’s hesitance to fly all the way to New York. Sam barely even knows Annie so it’s completely understandable. Though I do think it’s unfair to put her in the same league as the Glenn Close character.
Unable to convince his father, Jonah commits the one act that is every parent’s worst nightmare. With a friend’s help, Jonah flies to New York by himself in hopes of meeting Annie. Sam gets on the next plane out as soon as possible and finds Jonah at the Observation Deck. And soon we reach one of the classic film endings: Sam and Annie meeting on the Observation Deck. They barely miss each other for what it’s worth.
Make no mistake that the film is inspired by Leo McCarey’s classic 1957 film, An Affair to Remember, starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. It isn’t just the ending of the film. The film features film clips, the theme song, and multiple references throughout. This film is hardly the only classic referenced throughout the film. An iconic Casablanca tune kicks things off at the start.
The romantic comedy genre is the one genre that needs freshening up every once in a while. By placing the leads on opposite coasts and having them share so few minutes together, this film manages to do the trick. A few years later, Hanks and Ryan would team up again with Ephron. They’re no Hepburn and Tracy but they had a good run together on screen. In other world, it could have been Julia Roberts.
Sleepless in Seattle finds a way to put a fresh seasoning on top of the genre.
DIRECTOR: Nora Ephron
SCREENWRITERS: Nora Ephron & David S. Ward & Jeff Arch
CAST: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Bill Pullman, Ross Malinger, Rosie O’Donnell, Gaby Hoffmann, Victor Garber, Rita Wilson, Barbara Garrick, Carey Lowell, David Hyde Pierce, Dana Ivey, Rob Reiner