My all-time favorite romantic comedy has got to be While You Were Sleeping directed by Jon Turteltaub. It is very nearly flawless. The main characters are all likable; the plot moves forward through happenstance and misunderstanding rather than through intentional deception and maliciousness.
I’m not much of a fan of Sandra Bullock. I hated Miss Congeniality, both times. I never watched Forces of Nature because I didn’t like the look of it, and even Speed owes more to its plot than to its actors (except Dennis Hopper, who is brilliant). But Ms Bullock as Lucy Moderatz is perfect in While You Were Sleeping. As with most rom com stars, it’s really impossible to believe in Lucy’s loneliness. She’s attractive, sensible, and pleasant. Why should she have trouble finding love? Anyway, we like her right away, and she never does anything to betray our trust. She is never malicious and stumbles into deception rather than plotting it.
What really makes While You Were Sleeping so enjoyable, however, is the marvelous cast of other characters. Peter Gallagher plays the perfectly handsome and thoroughly shallow Peter Callaghan. Peter Boyle is on hand doing the lovable, cantankerous giant he did so well. Bill Pullman is perfect as Jack Callaghan, the rapscallion second son, who turns out to be more decent than his older brother. There are wonderful performances by Jack Warden, Glynis Johns, Micole Mercurio, Michael Rispoli, and Ally Walker. The musical score by Randy Edelman underscores every new complication with a kind of mischievous merriment that keeps us from taking any of it too seriously. I love the daffy banter in the family scenes where everyone talks at once, interrupts, misinterprets, and explains. Maybe it reminds me of my own family.
Most romantic comedies start with instant dislike that gradually turns to love as in Pride and Prejudice. Many recent rom coms feature characters who are just mean or vindictive. You end up wondering how they can possibly think they’ll ever make it together when they are so dysfunctional alone. But in While You Were Sleeping, the characters are all kind and well-intentioned. Lucy and Jack are never spiteful. Even Peter is merely selfish, never cruel. Jack’s family is loving and welcoming. As Lucy says, “I fell in love with you…. All of you. I went from being all alone to being a fiancee, a daughter a granddaughter, a sister and a friend.” That’s why I like it. It’s a romantic comedy where family is at the center.