Shut-In Cinema: While You Were Sleeping

We all love Sandy B., and if you say otherwise I know you’re just still bitter from your viewing of All About Steve. I want you to take a deep breath, go back in time, and remember when she was a rom-com queen! For me, her peak was in 1995 with the Jon Turteltaub film While You Were Sleeping

My family is weird about movies. When I was a kid my mother would use ones she enjoyed, specifically ones I didn’t, to drive me nuts if I misbehaved. It worked better than any spanking, grounding, or whoopin’ I ever received and some of the movies are still burned into my brain. See, she’s the type of person who can watch the same movie a hundred times and still enjoy it. I admire that, and even understand it with some movies (her comfort food is The Mummy while mine is Eraserhead), but that was a dash of insanity that I think might be unique to my childhood. One of her favorites, one that really twisted the knife into a young boy that didn’t get romantic comedy, was While You Were Sleeping. I came back to it in the last few years and, in a realization that I will never admit to her, began to understand that this one rules.

While You Were Sleeping focuses on Lucy Moderatz (Sandra Bullock), a lonely-but-loveable token collector for the Chicago Transit Authority. Her boss even drives home just how lonely she is, asking if she’ll work on Christmas because she has literally no one in her life. There’s this handsome man that comes through her turnstile every day, one Peter Callaghan (Peter Gallagher), and I can only assume that she’s attracted to his gloriously bushy eyebrows. On Christmas day he is assaulted by a group trying to mug him. Ma dude falls on the tracks and is knocked unconscious, allowing Lucy a hero moment when she dives onto the tracks and pulls him off before a train can splatter him all over the place in Cronenbergian glory. She is allowed to accompany him to the hospital and a nurse informs his family that Lucy is his fiancee after misunderstanding something she muttered to herself. The poor girl winds up going along with it for a multitude of reasons (some justifiable, some just for plot purposes), and she is quickly drawn into a loving family that adores her.

Enter. Bill. Pullman.

Listen, you may have forgotten about him but I certainly have not. The guy was once the king of dad-ish-but-young-enough-to-be-sexy comedic leads and this was his peak. His character, Jack Callaghan, suspicious of Lucy at first and needles her to answer questions about Peter. She nails most of them just due to the brief interactions she had with the sleeping beauty and Jack allows himself to relax around her. The two develop a friendship, learning to laugh and love, and it’s just so damn cute how they fall in love.

I’m not going any further into this (because why would I spoil this glorious movie for you), but take my word for it that it remains cute and fun right up until the closing credits. I’ll never hail Sandra Bullock or Bill Pullman as brilliant performers, the type who disappear into roles and create brilliant characters, but they do what they’re good at with laserlike precision and chemistry that could turn water into wine (a fine wine, at that). Turteltaub isn’t an incredible director, someone with vision and style all his own, but he’s the perfect journeyman and manages to keep the film together in a way that never feels unprofessional.

We’re locked in, I know a lot of you are bored and struggling to maintain some sort of routine/sanity, and I know everyone is worried. Don’t go out and watch Contagion or Outbreak, don’t sit down to play Pandemic, and for the love of all you believe in avoid zombie movies for now. Instead pour yourself a glass of wine, make some little tea sandwiches, and pop on While You Were Sleeping. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll be baffled at how a sweet little movie like this could ever have existed. It’s a wonderful time and one of the best rom-coms ever made. Don’t feel like a rom-com? That’s your loss!

While You Were Sleeping is currently streaming on Disney+.

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