Another film I had intended to see many years before now, While You Were Sleeping may not be a classic, but I was hoping for an enjoyable rom-com featuring Sandra Bullock being as enjoyable as she so often can be, and that is exactly what I got.
Bullock plays Lucy, a Chicago train ticket booth operator who spends a small part of each day dreaming about the very handsome Peter (Peter Gallagher). When Peter is attacked one day and ends up on the train tracks, Lucy saves his life. He is comatose though, and one misinterpreted moment leads to people thinking that Lucy is Peter’s fiancé. That pleases his family as they pile into the hospital room and gather around his prone form. And it also pleases Lucy, who starts to become part of a family unit in a way that she hasn’t ever really experienced before. But it gets complicated when she starts to develop a strong connection with Peter’s brother, Jack (Bill Pullman).
Written by two people who didn’t seem to write anything else before or after, Daniel G. Sullivan and Fredric LeBow, this is a really enjoyable romantic comedy that is smart enough to sprinkle in one or two plot points to minimise the ickiness of the central premise. Lucy is caught in a brief lie to herself, not intended for others to hear, and the situation spirals from there. She then wants to immediately tell the truth, but a friend of the family (played by Jack Warden) convinces her that having some connection to their comatose son is more beneficial to the family than knowing the truth.
With the smart writing allowing the premise to play out to its full potential, director Jon Turteltaub is able to let the cast develop some very believable chemistry and build a feeling of warmth and fun that leads viewers all the way to the predictable and entertaining finale. This is formulaic stuff (a farce created by a lie, complicated by feelings for someone who cannot know the truth), but it’s an object lesson in how to do it.
It helps that Bullock is so great in the lead role. Although I love her in any guise, she has a great knack of being able to look a bit more harried and “normal” before the moments that allow her to transform and highlight her natural beauty. She also sells both the emotional beats of the film and the comedy, with her ability to do both helping to make all of her films in this sub-genre much better than most. The same goes for Pullman, who is pretty much the male version of Bullock, in terms of how he can slightly adapt his appearance and how he can handle the different elements with equal aplomb. They make a great central pairing, and viewers will start to fret when it looks like the coma patient may be rousing at last. Gallagher doesn’t have as much to do, of course, but plays his part well. The aforementioned Warden is good fun, as are Peter Boyle, Glynis Johns, Micole Mercurio, and Monica Keena as the family who take our leading lady into their lives, and into their hearts (yeah, it’s schmaltzy like that, what do you expect?), and Michael Rispoli provides a number of extra laughs as Joe Jr, a young man who keeps deluding himself that he would be a good match for Lucy.
This has everything you need from this kind of film. There are frantic conversations about the spiraling situation, meaningful looks between two people who cannot be together, one or two pratfalls, a good selection of supporting characters (I will also mention Jason Bernard here, great value for the few scenes he has), a decent enough score from Randy Edelman, and a third act that has, well, I am sure you will already know what it has.
Really enjoyable throughout, this is a great comfort watch that should please all but the most cynical viewers.
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