Saturday, December 08, 2012

While You Were Sleeping: The Funny, Quirky Holiday Classic

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman,
Category: Romantic Comedy
(Update: The BluRay release date is finally set for January 15, 2013.)
For some reason, I can't stop grinning watching this movie. It is probably one of the best romantic comedy movies of all time. Even after all these years, it still puts a smile on my face. 
It's also a great holiday movie. Lucy is a Chicago Transit Authority ticket / token both operator who has a secret crush on one of her regulars. When he falls on the train tracks on Christmas day, she jumps on the tracks to save him. What ensues is a case of bad hearing / mistaken identity at the hospital that brings her into the Callaghan family. Peter Callaghan, the guy she was crushing on, is in a coma and the family channels their attention to her. Which is something that Lucy is longing for because she has no family to speak of. Confusion and commotion follow when she tries to right her wrongs and start falling for Peter's brother Jack. 
What makes the movies work is Sandra. Sandra's Lucy sweet, nice but slightly quirky, the perfect (slightly damaged) girl-next-door. She can make frumpy work because her personality (and that smile) shines through whatever her wardrobe is. Her comedic timing is pitch perfect and she seems not too concerned about how silly she looks. Her acting was really convincing. She even makes Bill Pullman look better than he does in most of his other movies. 
Lucy's building owner and his son.
The other big part of the movie is everybody else. There is not one wasted actor in the movie. Seems like no line is too small. The movie is filled with interesting characters, from Lucy's neighbors, the Callaghans, Lucy's boss and even the doorman at Peter's apartment. Played by both seasoned and up and coming actors, they bring real life to their characters. Most of my friends can point out characters that they can relate to or have relations with. Peter's elderly doctor in the emergency room? That's none other than Richard Cusack, father of Joan and John Cusack. The acting felt real and the movie felt real because the people in them wore and did what you and I would normally be doing in the holiday season. Their problems are totally relate-able
Tying the movies together was a simple story that was well executed on a lot of levels. The introduction set the tone of the movie by having the right balance of romanticism and self-deprecation. Yet it tells of Lucy's heartbreak and special relationship she had with her father that later we learn led her to the where she is in her life.
Peppered throughout the movie are small interesting moments that tell their own rich stories but don't take anything away from the main story itself. Take Jack's new vocation and how it will affect his relationship with his father Ox. In two scenes, it tells the complicated story of a son torn between the past, responsibilities and his future. Then there are the slippery ice clues. Watch how many people slip on ice in the movie. I didn't figure this out for years after I first saw the movie. I thought it was just a mean trick played on the guy delivering the paper.   
Cinematography presents Chicago as the other star of the movie. Beautiful vistas and wide shots of the town is normal when you are trying to sell that the story is taking place in Chicago. But it's also shot on location so there are great scenes shot at both iconic and not-so-famous locations that are recognizable to the Chicago native immediately. Having the CTA play a role also helps. The external scenes were really great. I could almost feel the cold as Lucy sat outside on the stoop.