In defense of… WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING
First thing’s first, a confession – I generally love most everything Sandra Bullock does. I know this is an unpopular sentiment in the blog world, particularly following last year’s Oscar ceremony, but I can’t help myself. I’m willing to concede that most of the work Bullock puts out is both (a) harmless trifle and (b) generally sunny and similar, but I will always jump to her defense thanks to my first encounter with her work – her Golden Globe-nominated performance in the 1995 romantic comedy While You Were Sleeping. Now for starters, I’m going to pass judgment – anyone who’s seen this movie and Bullock’s performance and hasn’t been able to glean even the slightest bit of enjoyment or, dare I say it, respect for the actress out of this particular film is, well, jaded. Thanks to Ms. Bullock’s truly real “Lucy” – I really do miss real characters in romantic comedies, as I continuously harp on (everyone’s a successful magazine reporter or fashion executive these days, huh?), the movie really resonates. She’s a toll booth operator in Chicago with virtually no friends or family but her co-workers and a cat.
Now, I’m all for escapism, but in this day and age, it seems like the more we’re forced to sit through heroines with easily attainable six-figure careers whine about not being able to land a man, the more I lose faith in the sub-genre. But Lucy is sweet, lower-middle-class (if that), a loner, and, ultimately, a lovelorn softie. Now, Bullock doesn’t make this, in my eyes, impeccable rom-com happen all on her own. Thanks to her encounter with a man in a coma, we’re gifted with Lucy’s semi-adoptive family, filled with a host of character actors that universally excel. Glynis Johns is adorable as the forgetful grandmother, Peter Boyle is his typical stalwart (but secretly gentle-hearted) curmudgeon as Dad, Micole Mercurio (so underused since) is the bubbly, emotional Mom, and Jack Ward is the cigar-smoking, conscience-providing godfather. And say what you will about Bill Pullman, but he and Bullock certainly had chemistry.
So, I guess the point I’m trying to get across is, even if Bullock’s Blind Side Best Actress win and unfortunately tabloid-ridden marriage and series of cookie cutter comedies cause you to dismiss her on the spot, there’s something so inherently great about her persona. I think the best way to describe it is by putting a copy of While You Were Sleeping in a doubter’s hands. It’s such a warm, well-performed flick, and it best displays why Bullock achieved “girl next door” status. I fully expect to be berated in the comments by cries of foul when I jump to the defense of the acting skills of someone who seems to divide so many, but she’s a welcome addition to ’90s cinema as far as I’m concerned. And she’s the primary reason I count this movie among my all-time favorites.