You know you’ve seen it. Probably a dozen times if once. It has become a "holiday classic" and especially in December it is on all-the-freakin'-time. Like Google, Sleepless in Seattle is ubiquitous. And chances are, like Google, you know it is bad for you but you LOVE it. You know the people at Google are laughing at you because you volunteer such personal information and sacrifice your privacy and every last shred of dignity you have because Google is just that irresistible; from beyond the grave, Nora Ephron is laughing at you too. She knows what you like and she gave you a big heaping serving of it every time you came a-calling. And truthfully, When Harry Met Sally is one of my favorite movies of all time. I love the idea that the answer is right there in front of you if only you will look and see. This leads me to my problem with Sleepless.
What the hell is the matter with Walter? I really need to know this. Because I’ve seen the movie, as I said, a dozen times if once and I still can’t figure it out. It eats at me. Let’s break it down, shall we? First of all, Walter LOOKS like Bill Pullman. This is because he is played by Bill Pullman. I have no idea if Bill Pullman is a nice man or not, but he looks very nice. That head of hair alone is justification for wanting to bear his children. Seriously, check out his hair, it is unbelievable. But whether or not he is nice is meaningless because WALTER is the man we are talking about. And Walter is probably the nicest man ever committed to celluloid. He absolutely dotes on Meg Ryan (I mean, Annie), is clean, polite, thoughtful and obviously has a good job. Check out the weird arrangements they have made for visiting family over the holidays and notice how flexible, kind and even tempered he is about it. The man is an absolute dream.
He and Meg Ryan (I mean, Annie) are also quite obviously birds-of-a-feather. The scene where they are registering at Tiffany’s is enough to break my heart into a million little pieces for the man. They can read each other’s thoughts, finish each other’s sentences. ..he is also a hopeless romantic! He arranges that special dinner for the two of them on Valentine’s Day in NYC; a window seat with a view of the Empire State Building and Dom Perignon!!! Catch me, I am swooning! If such a man exists outside of Nora Ephron’s obviously fertile imagination, I would pay to meet him. Because my sister is still single, I mean. So tell me, if you can, WHAT the HELL is WRONG with WALTER that Meg Ryan (I mean, Annie) DUMPS him for a VOICE on the RADIO??? Did I mention he looks like Bill Pullman?
Don’t get me wrong, everybody loves Tom Hanks, and for a good reason. He seems genuinely lovely. But the idea that Tom Hanks is so inherently superior to Bill Pullman that we should accept it as de facto really confuses me. His character Sam is actually a bit of a sad-sack, mooning over his dead wife and ignoring his son’s obvious moods and preferences. Yes, he has a good job and a cool house; he looks clean enough but that hair can NOT hold a candle to Walter’s mane. I just don’t understand why we are supposed to believe he is better than Walter. He dates a very pretty lady at one point who obviously adores him, but she has a weird laugh. Ultimately, a weird laugh is enough to do her in. Also, Sam’s dead wife is played by a super-model, and that is pretty hard to compete with.
So maybe this is it. Victoria, Sam’s girlfriend, has a weird laugh. Walter’s only flaws, as far as we can see, are a propensity to allergies and a sweet-but-corny sense of humor. I suppose the question is, are you the kind of person who considers such minor infractions as deal breakers? Because Sam and Annie sure are! I guess this is what they have in common: they are both unbelievably shallow and judgmental. Soul mates in disapproval of minutia, if you will. It bothers me so deeply that this is considered romantic. How romantic that Annie walks out of that Valentine’s dinner so lovingly planned by her fiancé to meet a man for the first time atop the Empire State Building! Hey, she should leave some binoculars for Walter, he can watch! And undoubtedly think to himself, “That guy??? But look at his HAIR!!!”
I realize Nora Ephron was simply being whimsical, spinning a confection that would melt in our mouths and go down easy time and time again. So why has it been stuck in my throat for so many years? Because it teaches us that being nit-picky and fickle and impossible to please are virtues; it indicates that what we already have is undoubtedly not good enough, especially if TOM HANKS happens to be available. Look, you may be in a bad relationship and have perfectly valid reasons for leaving and I would support you in that. But Annie wasn’t. Annie had a jewel in her hands and she just tossed it away, like good people are easy-come-easy-go. I knew that wasn’t true 20 years ago, when I first saw the movie. Now I really, really, really, really know it. You don’t discard something good on the off chance that something better is out there, because your lack of appreciation of the good you already have would prevent you from seeing the good you think you deserve anyhow. Plus, Walter looks like Bill Pullman! Did I mention that?