I was having a drink with a friend one night before Christmas, when she asked me “which do you prefer, One Fine Day or Sleepless In Seattle ?”
Of course, the serious film buff in me wanted to say “I’d rather watch Citizen Kane or Vertigo”. But the truth is I’ve always enjoyed a good romantic comedy, and even though I don’t spend my time endlessly watching Kate and Leopold or The Women, if there’s a film about New Yorkers falling in love, with some amusing dialogue thrown in, I’m more than happy to watch it. So I was put on the spot by the question Sleepless In Seattle or One Fine Day? And as I hadn’t watched either for a number of years I decided the only way I could choose would be to watch them as a double bill over the Christmas holiday and then write my opinions. That’s what I dutifully did, and I can now say that although One Fine Day is one of my favourites, two decades after its release, Sleepless in Seattle stands apart both as a cinematic achievement, and as the last great American romantic movie.One Fine Day manages to be light, funny and entertaining and the people who made the film (Pfeiffer also co-produced) were clearly committed to telling the truth about the compromises people make for our children, it is however ultimately forgettable. What sets Sleepless in Seattle apart is the fact that its romantic leads, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan hardly share any screen time, allowing director Norah Ephron to make this movie her own. Unlike One Fine Day the success of the film doesn’t rely on the couple’s chemistry; so Norah can subtly build the romance by recalling the cinematic joys that pre-dated her own films, particularly An Affair to Remember which makes several female characters weep throughout the course of the movie.Both films harken back to the simple romances of Hollywood’s past, and are thankfully devoid of the puerile humour of the recent offerings in the romantic comedy genre. I think One Fine Day’s director Michael Hoffman completely nails what a rom-com should be; with George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer at the top of their game, and some playful scenes and great dialogue to help them on their way. Hoffman creates a vision of New York full of meaning, romance and hope. It’s not hard to guess what will happen between the two leads in the end, but at least for your intellectual appeal the outcome of their relationship isn’t a typical romance-movie discovery-of-love scene but a more muted and shy understanding between two tired adults.
Sleepless in Seattle’s brilliance comes from its commentary on how cinema plays a role in shaping our ideals, goals, and decisions. Annie hasn’t known the overwhelming nature of true love, Sam has, but the cinematic notion that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence has impacted his grieving period. The point, however, that Sleepless in Seattle underlines is that art imitates life, not the other way around. Annie may try to recreate the emotions she has seen on film because she hasn’t yet experienced them herself,In summary; One Fine Day is a breezy romantic film, Sleepless a more subtle, serious entry in a genre often dismissed as frivolous, light-hearted entertainment. Sleepless in Seattle didn’t just holds a mirror up to the human experience depicted on screen, it also demonstrated to other film makers that modern romance didn’t have to begin and end in the bedroom. Sleepless in Seattle captivated audiences, paved the way for One Fine Day and You’ve Got Mail, and led to a brief revival of that great, and sadly dying Hollywood art form. The romantic comedy.
I’ll see you all in 2013.