Ross Malinger

Sleepless in Seattle

While we’ve spent the past couple of weeks “celebrating” the birthdays of films with dubious honor (though if you are a genuine fan of stuff like From Justin to Kelly and Dumb and Dumberer, that’s cool and we respect your dedication to using less traditional means of tastemaking to pick your faves), it’s important to remember that there are still plenty of good movies with looming anniversaries that are worth actually honoring. You’d like an example now, right? How about the late, great Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle, which turns twenty years old today? (Also, yes, we’re all really old right now.) The film was the second on-screen pairing of stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (their first was 1990’s Joe Versus the Volcano, a wonderfully weird rom-com if there ever was one) and their first outing with Ephron (she’d direct them five years later in their last pairing, You’ve Got Mail). It has the sort of dated plotline that sounded weird even when it was released in 1993 – really, what sort of people were still calling into sadsack telephone chat shows? – but its primary inspiration, drawn from 1957’s An Affair to Remember, is oddly timeless. As a story about other people, Sleepless in Seattle is inherently romantic and infinitely watchable, though it’s the type of thing that, if it happened in “real life,” would sound weird and basically hopeless. Ah, hopelessness, the true currency of all romantic comedies.

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Over/Under is a weekly column in which we even the odds between two films that have, perhaps unfairly, developed very disparate legacies over the passing of time. This week finds us looking for inspiration in the realm of the romantic comedy. Or, more specifically, we’re looking at one of the best-regarded romantic comedies of the last couple decades in 1993’s Sleepless in Seattle, and one that’s oft forgotten and sometimes derided in 1990’s Joe Versus the Volcano.

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