Thursday, July 16, 2020

You've Got Mail

Sleepless in Seattle
Director: Nora Ephron
Cast: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Bill Pullman, Rosie O'Donnell, Rita Wilson, Victor Garber, Rob Reiner, Gaby Hoffmann
Released: June 25, 1993

Oscar nominations: 
Best Original Screenplay - Nora Ephron, David S. Ward, and Jeff Arch (lost to Jane Campion for The Piano
Best Song - Marc Shaiman and Ramsay McLean for "A Wink and a Smile" (lost to "Streets of Philadelphia" by Bruce Springsteen for Philadelphia)

The only thing I remembered about this movie is the end where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan meet at the Empire State Building. Ironically, for a movie called Sleepless in Seattle, I only remember the part that took place in New York. I was also trying to remember if Meg Ryan's character lived in Seattle (I knew Tom Hanks's character did), but then I realized that if they both lived in the same city, it wouldn't make any sense for them to meet in New York! 

This movie starts in Chicago at the funeral of the wife of Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks). So right off the bat they want you to know he is now single. He decides he needs a change of scenery so he decides to move to Seattle with his eight-year-old son, Jonah. They don't really specify why he chooses to move to Seattle. He doesn't have any family there or likes the rain or says he got a job there, just seemed to randomly pick it. He and his son move into a house boat where he keeps a roll up map of the United State in the kitchen which he uses to teach his son geography. He gets a job as an architect and makes a friend named Jay (Rob Reiner) who teaches him about dating in the '90s. 

All the way on the other side of the country we meet Annie Reed (Meg Ryan), who lives in Baltimore and is engaged to Walter (Bill Pullman), a man the audience isn't supposed to like because he makes dopey jokes and is allergic to everything so he's always sneezing and blowing his nose. Yeah, not the most attractive, but despite his flaws he seems like a relatively nice guy. It's Christmas Eve and not only is Annie bringing Walter to meet her parents and family for the first time ever, but she also announces they're getting married. Does anyone else find this a bit odd that the family hadn't even met this guy while they were dating? We learn that Annie and Walter met at a sandwich shop when they both ordered a tomato and lettuce sandwich (why not just order a salad with a slice of bread?) and one of them had it on white and the other had it on wheat, but their orders got mixed up. Annie's mom gets out the wedding dress that her mom wore at her wedding because Annie wants to wear it and I'm thinking, girl, really? You really want to wear this very old fashioned and matronly dress to your wedding? Not only does it have long sleeves and a neckline that could almost be a turtleneck, but it looks like the top is a different material from the skirt. This moment is played as very sincere so it's not like we're supposed to laugh and feel bad for Annie in this hideous dress, but man, that dress is awful! Also, if I'm getting married, I want to wear my own NEW dress, I don't want to wear my mom's or grandmother's wedding dress. If they have a piece of jewelry for me, that's fine, but not the actual dress. I feel like this is a big troupe in movies, but it makes me wonder if this thing happens a lot in real life. 

After dinner, Annie and Walter leave and for some reason they're driving separate cars. There's really no reason for this except that the movie wants Annie to be listening to a Delilah-esque radio show called "You and Your Emotions" alone. The host is a woman named Dr. Marsha Fieldstone and the topic tonight is "Wishes and Dreams". Annie gets sucked into the show when Jonah calls in from Seattle and tells the host his wish is for his dad to have a new wife. He explains that his mom died and his dad has been very sad and hasn't been sleeping well which gives him the moniker "Sleepless in Seattle" (and the title of this movie, would you look at that!) Dr. Marsha Fieldstone wants to talk to Jonah's dad so he gets him. I'm honestly surprised that Sam didn't hang up the phone because that's what I would have done. Then I would have a very long talk with my child about calling national radio shows and airing my personal business for the whole country to hear! But Sam talks to her and he catches the attention of many women (including Annie) across the country as he talks about how in love he was with his wife, Maggie. He says when he took her hand to help her out of the car, "It was like coming home; only to no home I'd ever know." He also says it was like "magic" and Annie says that word at the same time, so this is supposed to tell the audience that Annie and Sam are meant to be. We'll see other instances of them where they're supposed to be meant for each other sprinkled in the movie. One example is when we see Annie peeling an apple with a knife in one long strip (I would be too scared to do that in fear that I would cut myself!) and in a later scene Sam will tell Jonah that his mother could "peel an apple in one long, curly strip."

The story goes viral (or whatever the equivalent of viral was in 1993) and Sam starts getting stacks of letters from admirers around the country. Apparently two thousand women have asked for his number. In the grand scheme, of things, 2000 is really just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the female population of the United Sates between 25-45 (my guess of the age range of the women who were writing him) in 1993, but on the other hand, 2000 letters is a lot for one guy to get. 

Jonah tells his dad that he gave out his address (um, that seems extremely dangerous...they could have some unstable woman stalking them (and in a way, they kinda do!)) and Sam (rightfully) asks, "What possessed you to give them our address?" Jonah says they called and asked for it. Sam asks how did they get their number and Jonah replies that you have to give your number to the radio show or they won't let you on the air. Okay, I need to unpack a few things here because I am a bit confused and if I missed something and somebody could clear this up for me, that would be great! I've never called in to a radio show so I don't know if you have to give them your number, but I guess it makes sense if your call becomes disconnected, or maybe it was just a plot device for this movie. I am shocked that the radio show gave out his number when women called asking for it. I feel like there's some law against that? Like a privacy law? I feel like Sam could have a lawsuit against this radio show and sue them for millions. Also, since these women already have his number, why are they calling just to ask for his address (I also find it amazing that Sam never picks up the phone when all these women have called; he must be a workaholic or something); why didn't they just ask to talk to Sam since they already have his number? I don't know; maybe I'm reading too much into this. I feel like there could have been a better way for this to be handled. 

Even though these women know that his name is Sam, all the letters begin with "Dear Sleepless in Seattle". Jonah helps his dad goes though the letters and one of them writes, "You're the most attractive man I've ever laid ears on" to which he rolls his eyes and throws the letter back. Yep, that would be my reaction as well! 

Back in Baltimore, where Annie works as a writer for The Baltimore Sun (presumably she writes fluff pieces) the "Sleepless in Seattle" story is getting a lot of attention. There's this weird line/"joke" where a couple of Annie's male colleagues are telling her that they heard a statistic that it's more likely for a woman to get killed in a terrorist attack than get married over the age of 40. This line was written as a joke (a bad one at that) and wasn't an actual fact, right? Because no way that is correct. I don't know anyone who's ever been killed in a terrorist attack. I know a lot of people who are married and while I don't know how old all of them were they wed, I'm sure there's at least one person who was over 40, so already that statistic is bullish*t. I did a bit of research and found that this was actually a statistic printed in a 1986 issue of Newsweek (and obviously not accurate...where do they even get the data to back that up?) and Nora Ephron was calling out how stupid it was. She probably should have just kept it out of the movie.

Annie and Walter make plans to meet in New York for Valentine's Day because he's going to be in Boston for a few days before the 14th. Annie has a friend named Becky (Rosie O'Donnell) who I think is her editor. Becky is not a fan of Walter and Annie keeps trying to tell her that Walter is a perfectly nice guy but even she has trouble convincing herself of that. Annie decides that she's going to write a letter to Sam and types one up on her typewriter (yes, typewriter; it wasn't even an electric one!) while she and Becky are watching An Affair to Remember. That movie plays a big role in this movie. I didn't even remember the name of it until Rita Wilson's character (who plays Sam's sister...kinda weird that a husband and wife are playing siblings, but I guess it would be way weirder if it were the other way around) mentions it. It seems all the female characters go gaga over this movie which I hated because it was such a stereotype that all women love mushy romantic movies. I've never seen An Affair to Remember, but from the few scenes they show of it here, it does not look like my cup of tea. It just looks boring. In another scene we'll see Sam's sister explaining the plot of the movie to Sam and her husband (Victor Garber) and ends up CRYING while she's talking about it. It's a great performance from Rita Wilson, but honestly, who has ever cried while explaining the plot of a movie? We will also see another scene of Jonah's little girlfriend, Jessica (Gaby Hoffmann) who is watching it and crying, declaring, "This is the best movie I've ever seen!" No, I'm sorry. No way an eight/nine-year-old child is going to say some old time-y romance movie from 1957 is the best movie they've ever seen. Not when Home Alone and Aladdin and The Mighty Ducks are most likely in her video rotation. Also she'll be changing her tune when she goes sees Jurassic Park that summer! I hated the whole An Affair to Remember subplot.

So Annie and Becky are watching the movie and they can both recite all the lines and Annie is swooning over the romance between Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Becky says the most meta line of the film: "You don't want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie." I laughed when Annie reads the start of her letter to Becky: "Dear Sleepless and son, I have never written a letter like this in my life" and Becky replies, "That's what everyone writes at the beginning of letters to strangers." She also asks her, "What about Walter?" and Annie dreamily says, "I would give anything to marry Walter." Okay, so then why are you writing to this man you've never met or seen that lives three thousand miles away? Annie's reasoning is, "What if this man is my destiny and I never meet him?" Sometimes I was very confused about what Annie wanted. There's a scene in An Affair to Remember where the two leads meet at the Empire State Building and Becky tells her to write that she wants to meet him there on Valentine's Day. Annie thinks this is a great idea because she'll already be in New York with Walter that day and she'll be able to squeeze in it. Then she realizes what she just said and crumbles up the letter so at least she had that much sense.

Can we just pause here for a moment and talk about this letter from Sam's perspective. You get this letter from a woman who's asking you to fly all the way from Seattle to New York to meet her at a very crowded touristy spot. Um, I'm sorry, but I'm not paying however much it cost to fly from one end of the country to the other in 1993, plus the cost of admission to go up the ESB. Not to mention that a flight from Seattle to New York is a little over five hours long and I'm guessing that's not counting layovers, though I suppose there's probably continuous flights between both cities, but that's not the point. If I'm Sam, no way I'm flying all the way across the country to meet some random woman; I don't care how much she talks about "fate" and "magic". If she wants to meet me so much, then she should come to Seattle and if she wants to meet at a touristy destination with tons of people around, then meet me at the Space Needle. Or better yet, why not a coffee shop? I'm willing to bet there's at least ten within five minutes of Sam's home! But like I said, Annie tosses the letter to the side and Sam never receives it...or does he...? 

Sam starts dating a woman he works with named Victoria. The audience isn't supposed to like her because she "laughs like a hyena" (Jonah's words) and while she does have an annoying laugh, I found it more annoying that she seemed to find everything that Sam said hilarious funny even though it wasn't, so I guess the movie did a good job of making me think she was annoying. Other than that, she seemed like a perfectly nice woman. I guess since she and Walter are in the way of Annie and Sam finding true love with each other, we're supposed to root against them. Jonah is especially a little brat towards her and she is doing her best to be nice to him. There's a moment when he's spying on them when they come home after a date and are standing outside on the deck. Jonah calls Dr. Marsha Fieldstone's radio show to give her (and the entire country) a blow by blow of what's going on. He then screams bloody murder when he sees them kiss and calls Victoria a "ho". Seriously, kid? Also, if this were my kid, he would be grounded until he went to college. Sam is a pretty chill dad as his kid doesn't seem to have any discipline. I guess his wife took care of that. Becky calls Annie to turn on the radio and once again she gets very invested in the story and wants to know who Sam is kissing. 

Annie pretty much turns into a full on stalker when she tries to get information about Sam under the guise she's wring a piece about call in radio shows and another piece on how people handle bereavement. This gets her Sam's number (why didn't she just call the radio show since they were handing out his number like free candy?) and she calls his number where she gets a message from the machine where she learns his last name. She uses this information to look him up on an extremely archaic computer on an extremely archaic database called Nexus City News Bureau. Under "Enter Your Request", she types, "Find Samuel Baldwin" and gets 216 matches. Three things here: First, there's only 216 Samuel Baldwins in the entire United States of America? That's seems quite low; maybe Baldwin is a rare surname? The only Baldwins I'm aware of are Alec, Billy Stephen, and is there another Baldwin brother? Second, doesn't she already have Sam's address? Wasn't she going to send a letter to him before she decided not to? Wouldn't it just be easier to cross reference him with his address? Am I missing something here? Also, for a newspaper writer, Annie is an extremely SLOW typer. I swear, it takes her 30 seconds just to type "Samuel Baldwin".  She does narrow the search to include Jonah's name and gets four matches. From there, she's able to deduce that her Sam is an architect (so I guess there's that new fact she's learning). She sends a fax to a detective agency in Seattle asking for a background check along with a photo on Sam. Okay. I get the background check. You want to make sure the guy you're stalking isn't some crazy maniac, cuz, god forbid! But why does she need a photo? Remember, this pre-dates social media so she can't just look him up online, but the way she gets the photo is so weird and almost invading on Sam' privacy.

Let me lead into how his photo is obtained....Sam is getting ready to go on a date with Victoria (and this is the same date that ends with both of them on the dock and Jonah screaming when he sees them kissing) and Jonah is opening fan mail for his dad. There's one letter that's addressed to both him and his dad so he opens it and surprise, surprise, it's Annie's letter. Turns out Becky sent it. Jonah reads it and thinks it's the most amazing letter and this Annie woman is the woman for his dad. He wants his dad to read it, but Sam's in a hurry so he only reads part of it. Jonah thinks it's a sign because Annie talks about baseball and declares "Brooks Robinson was the best third baseman ever" and Sam also thinks that. So I had to look up who Brooks Robinson was and he played for the Baltimore Orioles in the '60s. Sam dismisses this and says that everyone think he was great. Yeah, I have a hard time believing that just because they like the same baseball player means they're meant for each other. Also, Annie is from Baltimore so of course she's going to like a ball player that played for her city. They don't give any other examples from the letter of why they're meant to be which means the writers of the movie couldn't think of any legitimate reason why these two are meant for each other aside from the fact that it's Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. So while Sam is having dinner with Victoria at the restaurant, the waiter comes by to tell Sam that he has a phone call. Young people, this is what happened before cell phones. You had to use a pay phone or the restaurant's phone to call someone. Turns out it's Jonah who asks his dad if they can go to New York on Valentine's Day because Annie wants to meet them there. Once again, Sam is pretty chill. He's annoyed that his son called him for basically nothing (like he couldn't wait to ask him this later?) I would have yelled at him for calling me during a date for a non-emergency. So this is when the photo of Sam is taken. A man who is on the second level of the restaurant with an extremely LOUD camera that makes whirring noises as he focuses the lens on his subject, then proceeds to make more LOUD sounds as he clicks the camera several times to snap a few photos. He's totally inconspicuous. Yes, that was sarcasm. 

Annie flies to Seattle because she wants to do a story on radio shows (not specifically Sam's story, but radio shows in general), but let's face it: she's going to Seattle to do some stalking, I mean sleuthing. A huge warning bell that she knows what she's doing is wrong is that she lies to Walter and tells him she's going to Chicago. The funniest part of the movie is when she's on the plane and the woman next to her asks, "Don't you just hate flying?" and Annie replies, Yes, I do. And I just told the most terrible one to the man I'm about to marry. Do you feel that any lie is a betrayal?" The woman just looks at her and says, "I said flying." 

It just so happens that Sam and Jonah are at Sea-Tac to see off Victoria who's going...somewhere for....something. I knew that as people started to stream off from a flight that just got in, that Annie was going to be one of those people, and what do you know, I was right! Shocker, I know! Annie doesn't see him, but Sam notices her and he's instantly attracted to her and starts following her, but quickly loses her in the crowd. Jonah tells him that Jessica believes that he [Sam] knew Annie in another life. He asks who Annie is which is quite ironic since he was just following her. I did laugh when Jonah says he knows this stuff because he's "younger and more pure so he's more in touch with cosmic forces." Of course that is what Jessica told him. 

Annie goes to Sam's address and sees them on a small boat in the water, so she jumps back in her car and watches them as she drives across a bridge and she's literally turning her head back so she's not watching for traffic. Lucky for her, there doesn't seem to be too many cars out wherever she is. She then proceeds to hide behind a small general store as she peeks out and watches the father and son play on the beach. She is being such a creeper! It was at this point that I knew there had to be a trailer cut of this movie as a horror/thriller film and I was right. She even tells Becky, "I watched them play on the beach" when she returns to Baltimore. If that doesn't scream stalker-ish, I don't know what does.

There is a moment when Annie is about to cross a busy street to talk to Sam who's at a parking lot of a marina and right before she has the nerve to do so, a woman who she thinks is Sam's girlfriend comes into view and hugs Sam and Jonah. Turns out it's just Sam's sister, Suzy, who is visiting from Chicago, but Annie doesn't know that. She does get the attention of Sam when a truck honks its horn at her because she standing in the middle of a busy street like an idiot. They lock eyes and have a moment as they say "hello" to each other. Then the next scene is her back in Baltimore telling Becky what happened. She claims she just got back in her car and left. Remember this scene because I'm going to come back to it later.

So the young kids have written a letter to Annie pretending to be Jonah's dad and Annie soon receives the letter. This is when she learns that Becky sent her original letter. The letter reads, "Dear Annie, Thanks for the letter. It was great. You sound neat. We're very excited about meeting you in New York on Valentine's Day and seeing if we're MFEO. See you soon." Ha, I can only imagine how Annie, a writer, felt about receiving such an immature letter from a man she feels a connection to. I have to say that Jessica is ahead of her time. She was into using acronyms way before texting was even a commonplace thing. I don't think I've ever come across MFEO but right away I knew it stood for "made for each other". Sometimes her acronyms didn't work so well, like she she meets Jonah's dad for the first time and snottily says, "H and G", then has to clarify that it stands for "hi and goodbye". Honey, if you have to explain your acronyms, then, IDK, maybe don't use them? 

Jonah is still pestering his dad about going to New York to meet Annie, but Sam is not going to fly across the country to meet some woman he doesn't even know. Understandable. I did get a laugh when he asks Jonah if he saw Fatal Attraction and Jonah replies "You wouldn't let me!" as if he legitimately did want to see it. Glad that Sam put his foot down on that one; not an appropriate movie for an eight-year-old! 

Jonah and Jessica decide to take matters in their own hands. Since Jessica's parents are travel agents, she uses their database to book Jonah a flight to New York on the 14th. Turns out February 14, 1993 was on a Sunday so at least he wasn't missing any school! They pool their money (a little over $100) to pay for the flight, taxi fare, and ticket to go up the Empire State Building. I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be enough to pay for all of those even in 1993 currency, so I'm not really sure where they got the rest of the money to pay for all of that. I'm guessing Jessica stole one of her parents' credit cards. She puts down that Jonah is twelve so he won't have to have a chaperone. For some reason, even without Jonah's documentation, she is able to book him a flight which seems a little insane. They really kind of gloss over this. Look, I know that just a few months earlier the same plot line was in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York when Macaulay Culkin flies to New York by himself. But in defense of Kevin McCallister (I can't believe I'm saying this), it wan't his fault that he went to New York. It was an ACCIDENT. He wasn't purposely booking tickets to go to New York and deceiving his father. He just got separated from his dad at the airport and followed some random dude who he thought was his dad onto the wrong plane. And he ran into the woman taking boarding passes and everything got mixed up. It could happen to anyone! Also, the Home Alone movies are almost set in a fantasy world (if you can survive several bricks hitting you on the head, you're not in a realistic movie!) and Kevin McCallister can get away with surviving the streets of New York by himself. Jonah does not process the street smarts that Kevin has and Sleepless in Seattle seems to be set in a more realistic world than Home Alone 2. What I'm saying is that I find this entire subplot extremely absurd. How did Jonah even get to the airport? We just see Jessica buying him a ticket, then the next thing you know he's on a plane Also, NOBODY, NOT ONE SINGLE ADULT, seems to be concerned that this young boy is by himself in New f**king York. I've been to New York. It's a big city. I know, duh. But I cannot imagine being eight-years-old and just getting around by myself. But he's all chipper as he hails a cab to take him to the Empire State Building. The taxi driver asks him what he's going to do there and Jonah replies, "I'm going to meet my new mother." If I were that taxi driver, I would have so many questions, but he just continues to drive. So we see Jonah reach the top and he starts going to every woman in her thirties and asking them if they're Annie. I really feel like this plan was not seen through. First of all, the letters never said a specific TIME to meet. It just said "Valentine's Day". You dummies know there are 24 hours in a day, right? Also, they never specified a certain AREA to meet, just the Empire State Building. Well, I guess they did say at the top, but they still could have been a tad more specific.

Back in Seattle, Sam is ready to go on a little getaway with Victoria. Clarice, the baby-sitter, has just arrived. Sam begins to panic when he can't find Jonah and goes over to Jessica's house where she admits where Jonah is and says he left on the 7:30 flight which is leaving at that moment. Sam books the next flight to New York and he's probably two or three hours behind. 

Meanwhile, in New York, Annie and Walter are having a romantic Valentine's dinner at the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Plaza with a view of the Empire State Building that has a huge red heart hologram projected on it. Off screen, Annie tells Walter about Sam and when they come back to them he pretty much tells Annie he needs to go find him. He is taking this break up extremely well which makes me think he wanted to break up with her all along and is relieved that she did it for him. So she decides to mosey on over to the ESB to meet her new future husband and stepson. 

While this is going on, Sam has found Jonah. The ESB is closing so they get on the elevator to go back down. While THAT is going on, Annie is trying to convince the man selling tickets to let her up even though he tells her the building is closed. She mentions An Affair to Remember and the man tells her that's his wife's favorite movie, because of course it is. Because every female in this movie has to love that movie. Just as Sam and Jonah are going down the elevator, Annie is on the other one, getting off at the top. There's clearly no one there, but she asks to look around and finds an abandoned backpack. Now in these days, a bomb squad would be called if such a thing was found at the ESB, but she just goes over and picks it up and finds a teddy bear inside. Of course it belongs to Jonah and he and Sam come back up to retrieve it and that's when everyone is finally united (or re-united?) Annie and Sam take each other's hands and keep looking at each other in this extremely awkward way as they make their way back to the elevator. The movie ends as we assume they're about to start their new life together. 

Did you know that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan share less than two minutes of screen time together in this? That is insane, but it makes sense since they're only together at the end and for a few seconds when she's in Seattle. I mentioned before that I do not like An Affair to Remember being a big plot device of this movie. I also don't like New York being the big set piece for the ending. The movie is called Sleepless in Seattle; maybe utilize the city that's in the title of your movie. If Nora Ephron wanted New York to be a part of this movie, she should have set it there and named it Not Napping in New York; though that doesn't have the same ring to it. 

Remember I told you to remember the scene where Annie and Sam see each across the street in Seattle? Well, when that happens, there's 30 minutes of the movie left. Instead of Annie flying back to Baltimore, this is where I would have had them meet. Get rid of Suzy in this scene and maybe have Sam save Annie from an oncoming truck. Here they can begin their romance and we can have a cute montage of them falling in love in Seattle. Maybe we see them sharing a kiss at the top of the Space Needle! Maybe we see Annie almost getting hit in the head with a flying fish at Pike Place Market! Maybe we see them get caught in the rain without an umbrella! Maybe we see them go to ten different coffee shops in one day! Maybe they hold hands as they walk through Pioneer Square! Maybe they go whale watching! Maybe they take a ferry boat to Roche Harbor for a romantic weekend! Maybe they go fishing off his house boat deck! Maybe we see Sam give geography lessons to Annie too! The possibilities are endless! And we can still have some drama. Maybe Annie admits to Sam that she hired a detective to look into him and he becomes angry. Maybe Annie has to figure out how to break it off with Walter. Maybe they have a fight over where they're going to live, Seattle or Baltimore. I mean, I think the choice is pretty obvious. I've been to both Seattle and Baltimore more than once and as much I liked Baltimore, Seattle is way cooler. Then, at the end of the movie, you could either have them getting engaged or even getting married, take your pick. There. Much better movie! You get rid of all the women sobbing over An Affair to Remember and you get rid of the ridiculous plot line of an eight-year-old child flying to New York by himself. And you have Annie and Sam forming a genuine relationship. I am a genius. You're welcome! 

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