While You Were Sleeping

Okay, the feedback is rolling in as now we are up to four people who have attested to having visited at some point. Privately surprise has been expressed that While You Were Sleeping makes my list of favorite films. So, I will take that as request for a discussion of this fine piece of cinema.

While You Were Sleeping is my favorite “romantic comedy” (Defending Your Life is a better movie and it is romantic and it is a comedy but it’s not a “romantic comedy” in my mind since it’s more about other things.) The reasons are 1) the ensemble cast is absolutely hysterical. The “wacky romantic comedy family” thing really works here because of performances from stellar character actors like Peter Boyle (who shortly after went on to become Frank Barrone on Everybody Loves Raymond), Peter Gallagher, Jack Warden, Michael Rispoli, and the hysterically funny Glynis Johns. For a long time I counted “The Ref” and “While You Were Sleeping” as both two of my favorite comedies and I loved that in both movies (released about a year apart only) Glynis Johns plays a grandmother and in the one (the Ref) she is as the most vile and repulsive grandma I’ve ever seen in a movie (and you KNOW how many films have vile and repulsive grandmothers), while in the other, While You Were Sleeping, she is the most lovable grandmothers I’ve seen in a movie (granted it’s hard to come by a lovable grandma in films, but nonetheless it’s an accomplishment.)

Michael Rispoli as “Joe Junior” is hysterical as a loser “goomba” living off his father, making pathetic plays for Sandra Bullock’s Lucy, and settling for whoever he can get in her stead. Peter Gallagher is terrific playing vain and clueless. And on and on with the supporting cast. As for the leads, Bill Pullman has always been a favorite actor of mine (and in another favorite film of mine, The Zero Effect, which I plan to discuss soon) and he plays a guy you can really root for in this film. Sandra Bullock was at her most “girl next door”—-likeable, beautiful, and charming. And she plays the loneliness of her character in a way I found compelling.

The movie conveys a great sense of loneliness in a way I don’t get in other romantic comedies. Lucy’s loneliness and practicality and her internal life of whimsical, hopeful fantasy, are nicely set up to make the romantic result one you rooted for. The twists are contrived and farcical but emotionally the movie stays grounded and so the farce is fun, rather than feeling stupid.

And when it came down to it at the end of the film, when the romantic leads were going through the obligatory stages of not being able to just embrace one another and acknowledge their love and live happily ever after already, I just found myself really, really caring to the point of yelling at the screen. I can’t even remember off the top of my head any other movies that make me yell at the screen. But they got me involved enough that, well, there I was yelling at people in a romantic comedy to get together as if I didn’t know from the movie’s box cover that they were inevitably going to anyway. That’s an achievement in my book.

And the movie survives endless repeat viewings without stopping managing to be funny. Bill Pullman’s a romantic lead I can identify with, Sandra Bullock’s a romantic lead I can fall in love with, the family and other supporting characters are people I’d love hanging out with (which one good reviewer at www.flickfilosopher.com makes the litmust test for whether one of these zany holiday/family movies is worth watching), and the jokes just stay funny no matter how often I see them.

So, it’s one of the very few romantic comedies I simply love. There’s gotta be at least one for everybody right? So, in case you’re forgetting what makes the movie so funny and/or charmingly romantic, here’s a great list of quotes that just reading made me laugh pretty hard all over again :) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114924/quotes

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • W.G.

    Nice review/explanation. I remember liking it a lot myself (on repeated viewing). Haven’t seen it in ages, though.


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