Saturday 18 July 2009

Sleepless In Seattle/You've Got Mail

JOE: Hey…he could be the zipper man.
KATHLEEN: Who's that?
JOE: The zipper man! The, uh…
KATHLEEN: Who is that?
JOE: …he’s the guy out, he… repairs zippers on Amsterdam Avenue.
KATHLEEN: Will you cut it out!
JOE: You'd never have to buy new luggage.

I was out with a friend the other night, and she asked me "which do you prefer, Sleepless In Seattle or You've Got Mail?"

Of course, my answer should have been "Um? whaaa? I prefer DIE HARD! As if I watch chick-flicks!" But that's the problem, I've always had a lot of time for a good rom-com. Don't get me wrong, I don't sit around watching 'The Women' and 'Mamma Mia' - what I mean is, if there's a film about New Yorkers falling in and out of love with each other with some amusing dialogue thrown in, I'm more than happy to watch it. This is my only defence for owning 'One Fine Day.'

But the main question is, of course - Sleepless In Seattle or You've Got Mail? I decided the only way to know for sure would be to watch them back-to-back and then write my opinions. So I did that, and now let me say that for my money, 'You've Got Mail' is by far the superior film; both film-wise, romantically-wise and other-wise, Ephron-wise.

Watching 'Sleepless In Seattle' again I couldn't help but hate Meg Ryan. There really isn't a lot to her character; just that she is pretty desperate to meet Sam Baldwin. As she desperately runs around trying to hunt down the guy she heard on the radio, it just seems desperate and NOT romantic.

Now, Sam Baldwin's (Hanks) story I can really get behind. Tom Hanks is absolutely amazing in this film-- playing a character who truly loves his deceased wife; a man who's trying to keep it together for his son, himself and his sanity. There are many moments where his performance reaches a level of real emotion, real truth. You can believe what he's going through and you feel a lot of empathy for him, you can palpably feel his suffering. But Annie Reed (Ryan) is just an annoying woman taking up screen-time, running around trying to recreate 'An Affair To Remember.'

For me, 'You've Got Mail' takes the elements of 'Sleepless In Seattle' and makes a much stronger film. For one, it's all set in New York; and it's one of the most New Yorkian rom-coms you could hope for. It becomes a character, much like in Woody Allen's 'Manhattan' or in 'Serendipity' -- which I'll talk about a bit later.

'You've Got Mail' manages to be light, funny and entertaining-- yet also, it has real moments of conflict and emotion. The battle in the business lives of Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly really make for great rom-com storytelling; and Kathleen feeling the loss of her Mother and then going through it again as her shop closes gives Meg the kind of interesting backstory that was majorly missing in 'Sleepless...'

I think many people prefer 'Sleepless...' because it's more about fate. It's more about going to all the lengths needed to find your soulmate. I get that, I appreciate that-- but I think it makes for a boring film. It works in 'Serendipity,' I think, because John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale's characters know each other, and have got that link, y'know, the buzz. In 'Sleepless...' they don't have that. Even at the end when Hanks jumps on a plane to New York.. he doesn't do that to meet the girl, he does it to hunt down his son.

In 'You've Got Mail' though, two people do fall in love with each other. Through their words in their emails, and through the relationship that grows in the latter part of the movie over coffees, walks, and banter. I guess I just prefer that, I prefer that it's about the two characters rather than this airy feeling of fate. And as mentioned before; I think that is handled better in 'Serendipity' -- where their fate is driven by their need to find and be with each other. In 'Sleepless' it's just a desperate loon looking for a guy who's more interested in getting over his wife and looking after his son.

You've Got Mail will go down in film history as a completely average film; but it's one of my favourites. I think Nora Ephron completely nails what a rom-com should be; with two actors in their prime with some playful scenes and great dialogue to help them on their way. Ephron creates a version of New York full of meaning, romance and hope. I also think it's one of Tom Hanks' best performances to date. His natural subtlety and ease is masterful; with echoes of Jimmy Stewart (who was, of course, in 'The Shop Around The Corner,' which YGM was based on) -- he's at his most enjoyable. And unfortunately, we haven't really seen Hanks do fun since -- unless you count the dire 'The Terminal.'

Meg Ryan is far more enjoyable in 'You've Got Mail' -- in fact, she seems to get better as the years go by. I think her performances in 'Hanging Up' and 'In The Land Of The Women' are heartbreakingly truthful-- and I'd recommend you all to check them out (not if you're looking for a rom-com)

"and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home... only to no home I'd ever known... I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like... magic."
-Sam Baldwin, Sleepless In Seattle.

In summary; they're both classics in their own way. On a personal level; I'll go for 'You've Got Mail' every time. I've heard criticism of both films that they're 'not very realistic' -- my feeling of that is that, actually, people are too realistic. We create the world we want. If you want to be more romantic, be so-- the world will deliver.

Care to share?


  1. "We create the world we want. If you want to be more romantic, be so-- the world will deliver."

    Kid, I think right there is my problem. Stuff that happens in those movies NEVER happens to me. But you're right, it's because I'm not putting it out there.

    Okay, so I'm going to work on creating my own great New York love story. Not that it's going to be easy but I'm going to try. And you can then write the screenplay about my happy ending.

    How does that sound?

  2. I think 'You've Got Mail' is the better terms of acting, plot, etc. I always thought something was missing in 'Sleepless'. And after reading this, I realized what it was. The connection between the two main characters. Of course. Duh.

    I just happened to watch 'You've Got Mail' on TV last week. I think it's one of Meg Ryan's best films. far as romantic comedy goes, I think YGM is a little more believable than 'Sleepless'.


  3. I've never watched either one. But i do love any die hard movies :)

  4. Yay! I knew you'd prefer You've Got Mail :)

    I absolutely LOVE both movies, but YGM is far, far superior. It's a proper love story, whereas I've always felt that SIS was more about Sam's act of moving on and his relationship with his son. Annie was just padding, there to string it all together and to bring into play the whole "An Affair To Remember" comparison, which is clearly a film Ephron loves and has been influenced by.

    The dialogue of YGM is so romantic and full of beautiful whimsy, it's what makes the film so good, whereas alot of SIS relied on imagery and physical comedy.

    I would gladly sit down and watch either film, time and time again, but it's YGM that makes me sigh wistfully and has me wishing on a star for a guy like Joe Fox (I just want to make Sam in SIS large amounts of food that he can freeze and reheat ... much like his sister-in-law did)

    I have to go watch it now.

  5. hey, I like your blog too (this is the blog equivalent of an air kiss I'm sure). I like both films, but in terms of 'best' I agree with you, You've Got Mail has the best chemistry - it's one of Hanks' best performances.

  6. Ah, I adore 'You've Got Mail' AND 'Serendipity', and the fact that the former is on TV at least once a month adds to that! I love that the story is about two people willing to fight over what they're passionate about, and still have that passion for each other. It's a beautiful story ... and I've only seen half of 'Sleepless...' so I don't have an opinion on it, hehe.

  7. Sleepless in Seattle, to me, is obnoxious. Infuriating. I hate the desperation. You've Got Mail is infinitely better, something I actually enjoy.

    I want a romantic comedy like Philadelphia Story. Who is going to write it, goddammit?

    Whatever. Die Hard is in my top ten. I will never run out of action movies. They're so much easier to love than the romantic ones.

  8. As far as forgettable romantic movies go my favourite recent example is the surprisingly lovely "Music and Lyrics". As far as unforgettable ones go, for me it has to be "Annie Hall"

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and for your lovely comment.

  9. Hey !

    Thanks for the comment. It is a great song eh !

    Sleepless in Seatle is a great film, Tom Hanks is always brilliant !

    Take care.


  10. LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!! Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are one of the cutes couple ever! I am a huge fan of lovestorys WITH happy end! :o)

  11. I with you Kid, I'm a guy and I like both these films and I also own One Fine Day !
    I concur with you and most other people that Mail' is a better film than Sleepless' although Joe Versus The Volcano is my favourite of the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan trilogy.

  12. Mystery solved Kid, it was in this post that you said.

    "Meg Ryan is far more enjoyable in 'You've Got Mail' -- in fact, she seems to get better as the years go by. I think her performances in 'Hanging Up' and 'In The Land Of The Women' are heartbreakingly truthful-- and I'd recommend you all to check them out (not if you're looking for a rom-com)"

    I knew I'd read it somewhere on here!