A sweet and gentle, romantic film about how love sometimes slips in through the window rather than coming straight in through the front door, it's the one that put star Sandra Bullock into contention with Meg Ryan for the crown of America's Sweetheart. And with good reason, because in `While You Were Sleeping,' directed by Jon Turteltaub, Bullock emerges as the epitome of the modern day `girl next door,' in the best and most sincere sense. This is a film that explores one of the basic tenets of the human condition, the need to love and be loved, and makes no bones about what it's trying to accomplish along the way. Clearly, the filmmakers want to make you feel good and entertain you at the same time. And they succeed on both fronts.
Lucy Moderatz (Bullock) lives alone in Chicago, where she has an apartment, a cat and a job with the CTA as a token taker for the train. Her life is fairly uncomplicated and uneventful (read: Dull), and the one thing she looks forward to in her daily grind is seeing a certain young gentleman who rides the train everyday and always passes through her toll booth. She's doesn't even know his name, and they've never exchanged so much as a `Good morning,' but in her mind he's become the Prince Charming she's always dreamed about.
Then on Christmas morning he passes through, but while waiting on the platform for the train he gets mugged and falls onto the tracks, unconscious. And a train is coming. Lucy runs to his aid and saves his life, but the severe head trauma he's sustained has put him in a coma. At the hospital, they refuse to let her in to see him, as that is a privilege reserved for family members only; so in desperation she tells them that she is his fiancee, which does the trick. But when his family-- his rather `large' family-- shows up, her ruse creates something of a sticky wicket. Everything is moving so fast and becoming so emotional that Lucy simply can't get in a word of explanation. The next thing she knows, to the family she is their beloved Peter's (Peter Gallagher) intended (even though he's never said a word to them about her), and because the situation is so frantic and there's such concern about Peter, besides which it's Christmas, Lucy can't bring herself to tell them the truth. So in an instant, her life is suddenly changed; she's surrounded by `family,' and she's `engaged' to her Prince Charming. Even if he is, well...in a coma.
Turteltaub has crafted and delivered a thoroughly engaging film in the tradition of Nora Ephron's `You've Got Mail' (the second best romantic comedy ever made) and `Sleepless In Seattle.' He sets a perfect pace, and presents his endearingly eclectic assemblage of characters in the best possible way-- he makes you feel at home with them. Most importantly, though, Turteltaub manages to make this a `sweet' film without being `saccharin' about it, which would have sunk it quicker than a deflated rubber raft in an undertow. Instead, he pulls out all the right stops to make his film entirely Ephronesque and entertaining, and it works beautifully. The humor is warm, and as the story moves along he builds upon that strong sense of `need' that is universal, then triumphs by satisfying that need in the end.
Sandra Bullock has never been more winning or winsome than she is here; there's a special quality about her Lucy that makes you want to reach out to her. She is, without question, the most vulnerable character Bullock has ever played. There is very little of Annie (`Speed') or Gracie (`Miss Congeniality'), for example, about her; the closest to Lucy of any of her characters, in fact, would be Birdee in `Hope Floats.' That is not to say there is anything `weak' about Lucy at all-- quite the contrary, in fact. There is a decided strength in the very benevolence of Lucy's nature, even in the way she wears her heart on her sleeve and especially inasmuch as she is not afraid to admit to herself what she really wants and needs. This is an independent woman who accepts and meets any and all challenges of life, but keeps an open mind and, above all, an open heart. And that is what makes Lucy so endearing; she's the one who brings a cake to the office to share with her co-workers for no other reason than the fact that it makes the world and everybody in it a little bit better. That's what Bullock brings to her performance here, and it's what makes Lucy one of her most enduring and memorable characters.
As for sliding in through the window rather than coming through the front door, that's exactly what Bill Pullman does with his portrayal of Peter's brother, Jack Callaghan. He's the one who shows up after the fact, as it were, but very quickly makes a connection and ingratiates himself with the audience. Initially, Jack seems to be playing the role of devil's advocate, his suspicions aroused by the fact that Peter has never mentioned Lucy to him; but that begins to change with some very subtle undertones that prove to be extremely effective. And Pullman does a terrific job of developing his character in real time, which makes Jack convincing, and a piece of the puzzle that fits in perfectly. A `character actor' type leading man, Pullman has a resume filled with varied and colorful characters, but Jack is his most engaging role ever, and he succeeds entirely with it.
The wonderful supporting cast includes Jack Warden (Saul), Peter Boyle (Ox), Micole Mercurio (Midge), Michael Rispoli (Joey) and the wonderful Glynis Johns, as beautiful and charming as ever as Elsie. Warm and poignant, `While You Were Sleeping' is one to savor; this one's a keeper. (BTW, the #1 romantic comedy? Bonnie Hunt's `Return To Me').
Lucy's life consists of constant loneliness that is until she saves Peter's life. Now she is a part of his family, and with a strong heart and fate on her side, others begin to realize what a terrific person she is, especially Jack, Peter's brother. An extraordinarily true-to-life sequence of events begin to take place as Lucy and Jack become closer and learn more about each other and themselves than one would ever expect from such coincidental, yet believable events.
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October 22, 2016 at 8:28 PM