Sunday, April 20, 2014

Film Classics of the 20th Century

In this ongoing series on film classics of the last century, we've looked at My Little Chickadee,  Tootsie,  After Hours,  Edward ScissorhandsChristmas in Connecticut, Desk Set,  When Harry Met Sally . . .,  Who Done It?,  That Darn Cat!,  Cactus Flower,  Family Plot, House Sitter,  and Outrageous Fortune.   Film classics are the films that grab you, even on repeat viewings, especially on repeat viewings.

movie montage

1993's Sleepless In Seattle is a comedy classic.  And, as far as romantic comedies go, it's probably the finest to this day.

Annie (Meg Ryan) is excited at Christmas to introduce her family to her fiancee Walter (Bill Pullman).

Christmas is less happy for Jonah (Ross Malinger) which is why he calls into a radio show . . .

about his father Sam (Tom Hanks) . . .

who can't get over the death of his wife. 

Do you follow that?

If not, follow this scene from Nora Ephron, David S. Ward and Jeff Arch's script.

Becky: Listen to this, phone service in the greater Chicago area was tied up for two hours Christmas Eve when some kid calls a phone-in radio show and says that his dad needs a new wife. 2,000 women called the radio station asking for the guy's number. 

Annie:  I heard it. This kid calls up and says, "My dad needs a new wife."  And the shrinkette practically forces the guy onto the phone and says, "Do you want to talk about it?" And he says, "No as a matter of fact I don't."  And then suddenly, for no reason at all, he starts to talk about how much he loved his wife and how he just fell in love with her like she was one of those cows in Michigan.  

Becky:  What cows in Michigan?

Annie:  It was on 60 Minutes.  There were those cows that got zapped by stray voltage.  No one knows why.  And maybe it was Wisconsin.  But, anyway, I was listening to him talk about how much he loved his wife and suddenly I was crying.  It's like what happens when I watch those phone company ads.  I don't have to see the whole thing, just the part where the daughter gives the mother the refrigerator with --

Becky and Annie:  the big red bow!

Becky:  Yes.  The Polaroid commercial -- two five-year-olds at their grandfather's birthday party 

Annie:  Making an album!

Becky: With all the glue!  That kills me!  You should write something about this.

Annie:  About what?

Becky:  Whatever it is.

Wyatt:  I'll tell you what it is.  2,000 women calling a radio station for a husband?  There are a lot of desperate women out there looking for love.

Keith:  Especially over a certain age. 

Wyatt:  You know it's easier to be killed by a terrorist than it is to get married over the age of forty.

Annie:  That's not true.  That statistic is not true.

Becky:  That's right. It's not true.  But it feels true. 

Wyatt:  It feels true because it is true. 

Annie:  There's practically a whole book about how that statistic is not true.

Wyatt: Calm down, you brought it up.

Annie:  I did not, Wyatt.  Did you even read that book?

Wyatt:  Did anybody read that book all the way through?

Becky:  Are you two finished?  Good.  Now where were we?

Annie:  If someone is a widower, why do they say that he was widowed?  Why don't they say that he was widowered?

FYI, the book being mentioned is Susan Faludi's Backlash.  And Becky is played by Rosie O'Donnell.

She's part of a first-rate supporting cast which also includes Rob Reiner . . .

Victor Garber and Rita Wilson.

In fact, Rita Wilson nearly steals the film when her character explains the plot of An Affair To Remember.

Nora Ephron didn't just co-write the Academy Award, Writers Guild of America and BAFTA nominated screenplay, she also directed the film.  It was her follow up to This Is My Life and, with her second film, she scored not just a blockbuster but also a classic.

There's not a weak moment in the film.  Every moment pays off, every frame of film is needed.

Meg Ryan won an American Comedy Award for her performance and it was more than deserved.  Her Annie remains one of the foremost comedic heroes of 90s film.

And she and  Tom Hanks have real chemistry in the film -- it's not easy to have chemistry with Hanks and Meg's the only one who ever has -- in this film, in Joe Versus The Volcano and in You've Got Mail.  Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks have co-starred in two flop and demonstrated all the 'magic' and appeal of curdled milk.  Chemistry can't be forced.

With Annie and Sam, the chemistry is just there.

And Annie is the ultimate comedic hero, willing to travel across the country to pursue a possibility.

At one point, as she struggles with her hopes and likely reailty, she states,  "Destiny is something we've invented because we can't stand the fact that everything that happens is accidental."

And that may be true, but it's left to Rosie O'Donnell's Becky to sum up her best friend, "That's your problem.  You don't want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie."

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