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.

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2 responses to “In defense of… WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING”

  1. Trulyfool says :

    Luke, It would be hard for me to name a single film of SB's that I watched start to finish. That may not be either her fault or mine. Actors get the work they can get. Despite what you say about this film, I'm not at all intrigued in seeing it. Short of Italian neo-Realism or the American 'social cinema' of the Martin Ritt/Stanley Kramer kind, no one comes even a continent close to 'lower-middle' class in film. That burden is too heavy. BUT. In SBs defense, I will say this: She's got 'screen presence' — not a one-of-the-mill stand-in like so many, many, many who offer their wares before the camera, but whose 'package' is empty. Keep up the enthusiasm, bro!Trulyfool

  2. daffystardust says :

    I’m typically a snooty intellectual when it comes to most film, but While You Were Sleeping somehow does it for me. The script is really only slightly better than most rom coms, but the cast really elevates the material, starting with Bullock and Jack Warden. They both inhabit the world of the film appropriately, but without performing “down” to the perceived level of the material/genre.

    Aside from its obvious charms, I have to admit to loving this film in part due to the romantic way in which Chicago in the winter is shot. This movie was filmed there when I was living in the windy city, and it really serves as a lovely dose of personal nostalgia to see my own memories on film. What a great city!

    Another film set in Chicago which I love is High Fidelity with John Cusack. Check out my review of it over at Lebeau’s Le Blog.

    lebeauleblog.com/2011/12/18/underappreciated-masterpiece-high-fidelity/#more-1604

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