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Friday Film Review: While You Were Sleeping

While You Were SleepingWhile You Were Sleeping (1995)
Genre: romantic comedy
Grade: A

The first time I saw this film was with a dear friend of mine who told me I’d love it. Me, I was skeptical since I wasn’t really into romantic comedies then but by the end of the movie, I was in love with it. So in love that I went home and bought my own VHS copy – which has since been replaced with a DVD. I wanted Lucy’s romance, and Lucy’s future family-in-law and Lucy’s HEA. And each time I see it, I still do.

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CTA token booth agent Lucy Moderatz (Sandra Bullock) falls in love with Peter Callaghan (Peter Gallagher) the first time she sees him. Too shy to say anything to him, she yearns from afar until the day that muggers knock Peter into the path of an oncoming express train and Lucy saves his life. Now a mix up at the hospital, where Peter is in a coma, has his whole family thinking that Lucy is Peter’s fiancee.

The big hearted Callaghan clan welcomes her with open arms and Lucy, who is alone in the world except for her cat, can’t help but fall in love with them even as she’s racked with guilt about lying to them. But it isn’t until brother Jack (Bill Pullman) arrives on the scene that she’s really in trouble. As the days go by and these two spend more time together, Lucy finds herself falling for the wrong brother just as Jack is falling for her. So, what’s going to happen when Peter finally comes out of his coma?

This is such a feel good movie – but it’s not one that’s so desperate to be one that it shoves it’s feel-goodness in your face. It just gently moves along and catches you in its magic. And right when it starts to edge in the vague direction of maybe a little too treacley, Ox (Peter Boyle), Saul (Jack Warner) or Elsie (Glynis Johns) slips in a sharp comic line to make you laugh again. Or Lucy has to prove herself by explaining about Peter’s testicle which is an owie moment.

Sandra Bullock manages to play Lucy in such a way that I don’t think she’s a sad, lonely loser. Instead she’s a woman who just hasn’t met that special someone who sees beyond her shy exterior yet. And Bill Pullman is fabulous as the man who suspects something is off, after all she leans into Joe Jr, but who falls for Lucy anyway because “I’d say that she gets under your skin as soon as you meet her. She drives you so nuts you don’t know whether to hug her or, or just really arm wrestle her. She would go all the way to Europe just to get a stamp in her passport. I don’t know if that amounts to insanity, or just being really, really… likable.” And because this is the first time he’s envied his brother anything.

The film has so many great scenes: the opening the Christmas presents at the Callaghans – where they’ve hung a handmade stocking for Lucy, several scenes between Jack and Lucy as they move a love seat present into Peter’s apartment or walk home through the cold only to slip on the ice in front of Lucy’s apartment, Saul and Lucy’s conversation about the Callaghan family, the dinner scene with the creamy mash potatoes, the hilarious wedding scene and the final proposal scene with the whole Callaghan family.

It’s also got some of my favorite actors like Jack Warner, Peter Boyle, Glynis Johns, and actors new to me like Micole Mercurio as Midge Callaghan, Michael Rispoli – he of the butt crackage – as the obnoxious son of Lucy’s apartment manager and Jason Bernard as Jerry, Lucy’s boss with whom she has some of the funniest conversations in the movie.

Lucy: I’m having an affair. I like Jack.
Jerry: Who’s Jack?
Lucy: Peter’s brother.
Jerry: So?
Lucy: So he thinks I’m engaged.
Jerry: To who?
Lucy: To Peter.
Jerry: Lucy, I really don’t have time for this.
Lucy: No, you have to tell me what to do.
Jerry: Tell the truth.
Lucy: If I tell Jack I lied to his family he will *never* speak to me again. And Ox and Midge and Mary and Saul.
Jerry: Saul? Who’s Saul?
Lucy: The next door neighbor. But you know what? Actually, he knows.
Jerry: Lucy, you are born into a family. You do not join them like you do the marines.
Lucy: So what should I do?
Jerry: Pull the plug.
Lucy: You’re sick.
Jerry: I’m sick? You’re cheating on a vegetable.

Jerry: So what’s the big deal?
Lucy: What’s the big deal? Jerry, they think I’m their future daughter in law. And the grandma has got this heart thing and if I tell them the truth, she’s gonna have a heart attack and die and it’s gonna be on my head.
Jerry: Well, go along with it and when Peter comes out of the coma the family’ll be so happy they won’t care that you lied to them. They’ll probably even thank you for it.
Lucy: [to hot dog vendor] *Just* Mustard.
[to Jerry] Lucy: Ok, what if he *doesn’t* come out of his coma?
Jerry: Then who’s to know?
Lucy: [groans] Jerry: Listen, Lucy, when I told my mother I was getting married to my wife, her intestines exploded. You tell them the truth now, you may as well shoot grandma.

I love to watch Lucy skate on the edge of being found out yet realistically get out of it each time. Which she manages without lying – too much. And who wouldn’t fall for the man who buys you a Florence snow globe just because you once told him you want to go there? Sigh… After I finish watching “While You Were Sleeping,” I have a big smile on my face and feel happy all over. Plus the paperboy falling off his bike always gets a laugh too.


Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Carole
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 04:11:27

    It’s my favorite movie! I’ve watched it, like, a million times and still haven’t gotten tired of it. :)

  2. cate
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 04:33:34

    I’d forgotten just how good & how funny this film was, until it was shown recently over here (UK).
    The scene where Lucy tells a suspicious Jack & the rest of the family about Peter’s missing testicle had me howling with laughter.
    Micheal Rispoli is ab fab as the wannabe
    love stud, with penchant for womens shoes,
    & Glynis Johns is divine as the grandma.
    – BTW Jayne, have you ever seen / reviewed
    GJ’s Miranda ?
    B&W late 1940’s British rom com about a mermaid. Well worth a look if you haven’t seen it

  3. KMont
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 04:46:06

    Aw, I love this movie. It’s one of those that, if I see it in TV, I have to stop and watch. So funny and I just love Sandra Bullock in this one. Bill Pullman is also excellent, even if I can’t help but picture him in Spaceballs every time.

  4. Sandra
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 05:19:02

    This is one of those movies, like Bull Durham, that even though I have the DVD, and can watch it whenever, I still stop on it when channel surfing and watch to the end.

    And Bill Pullman (drool) is so fabulous in this movie. The leaning scene, the wedding, the proposal, and especially that bit on the stairs. The look on his face when she calls him back….

  5. Lexxie Couper
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 06:04:43

    Wow, I just finished watching this movie (for the billionth time) like, two hours ago (it ended a rom-com-athon starting with Love Actually, followed by The Proposal and then Two Weeks). Everything about While You Were Sleeping is beautiful and I fall in love with Jack every time I watch it (I still have a hard time convincing myself Bill Pullman is the same Bill Pullman who starred as the completely clueless crook in Ruthless People).

  6. Tee
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 06:16:55

    Could not agree with you more on this movie. I absolutely loved it and still do every time I watch it!

  7. Tae
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 06:55:19

    One of my favorites, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Pullman in a leading man until this movie or since… and I just adore Sandra Bullock, she’s adorable but the family is what I love the most – the weirdo, kooky ones

  8. Jayne
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 06:59:19

    @KMont: I recently watched “Spaceballs” again to see if I still liked the movie as much as I did years ago when I first saw it. The answer, unfortunately, was no but I still liked Bill Pullman in it.

  9. Jessica
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 07:00:53

    Recently I wrote a blog called “RomCom FAIL” about how terrible most Romantic Comedies are (inspired by When in Rome – ugh!)

    But WYWS takes the cake as one of the BEST! I always wonder when a current movie doesn’t end the way I want it to (I’m looking at you, Dear John) what would have happened if they just would have endded it HEA. Would that be so bad?

    Also around this time period: Only You is another good one. Sure it’s a little silly but with plucky Marisa Tomei, bff du jour Bonnie Hunt and the delectible Robert Downey, Jr… really, how could it be bad? ;-)

  10. Jayne
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 07:01:34

    @Sandra: I also like the scene that Jack has with his father, over donuts, about the business. I can believe these two are father and son.

  11. Jayne
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 07:04:09

    @Lexxie Couper: Oh, I know. The first time I saw “While You Were Sleeping,” I didn’t even realize that Pullman was the same actor as the putz in “Ruthless People.” It wasn’t until years later that something clicked and I thought, “the same actor did both these roles?!”

  12. Jayne
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 07:08:16

    @Tae: I adore the family. Every one of them. The present opening scene gets me every time.

  13. Jayne
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 07:15:47

    @Jessica: I have to agree with you about the failure of a lot of RomCon movies. Many are so ploddingly formulaic and/or rely on silliness. Since I’ve started doing these reviews, I’ve gone through a lot of the offerings at Netflix and sadly ruled out reviewing many that I’ve watched.

  14. Sandy James
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 08:07:41

    Another great movie, Jayne! LOVE this one! I think I what I like best is having the “less handsome” guy win the girl. Will admit to snorting a very loud laugh when she tells them all that he only has one testicle. :)

  15. Kaye
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 08:38:04

    Count me among those who have to watch this movie whenever I come across it on TV.

    I don’t consider myself a fan of rom-coms, but only because there are so many bad ones. I can’t even decide what makes this work while others (even those with Sandra Bullock) fail.

    Maybe it is the lack of desperation, the strength of the ensemble, and the easy, believable chemistry between the leads.

    I also like that Bill Pullman gets the girl.

  16. Christine
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 09:12:12

    I pretty much hate most romantic comedies, just because they’re usually so trite and formulaic. Boy gets girl, huge argument/conflict comes in, boy loses girl, girl and boy forgive each other, and KISS! More than romance novels, romantic comedy heroes and heroines are usually interchangeable cardboard cut-outs.

    While You Were Sleeping and 13 Going on 30 are two of the only ones that I can stand – and actively LOVE! WYWS is always on cable, like many of you have said, and whenever I see it while I’m flipping through, I have to stop. It’s so sweet, darling, wonderful… it’s one of those movies where you’re in love with the romance between Lucy and the family as much as the romance between Lucy and Jack.

    “I fell in love with you!”
    “You fell in love with me?”
    “No! All of you!”


  17. TaraR
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 10:03:52

    This movie always manages to bring a smile to my face. The characters are all so likable and believable. This review just brought it all back.

  18. Daisy
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 10:12:53

    Count me in the fangirl group for this movie. I have always loved Sandra Bullock, but this is the movie where I fell in love with Bill Pullman. I just love him in all his roles, though I have to admit to loving him most in Lake Placid and Independence Day – though it is hard to believe he is the same actor in all of those movies.

  19. Suzanna Medeiros
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 10:44:24

    I, too, have both VHS and DVD copies of this movie. I’ve been trying to resist the urge to watch it yet again, but I think I’m going to go ahead and do that tonight. Resistance is futile! ;)

  20. Lauren
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 10:46:06

    I adore this movie because it isn’t formulaic and its charming without being too sweet. I also like that there’s a sort of undercurrent theme of finding unexpectedly what you were always looking for.
    Lucy has been “in love” with Peter and longed for him afar, only to unexpectedly find something real with Jack.
    I think lately it really makes me smile because I’ve had Peters in my life..but finally met a Jack right down to the leaning..

  21. Mary G
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 12:23:46

    I so love this one & watch it every time it’s on.

    “I fell in love with you!”
    “You fell in love with me?”
    “No! All of you!”

    That scene makes me cry every time. SB just makes you feel her lonliness to the bone there.

  22. Rachel Randall
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 13:26:48

    I love this film so so much. Especially the way the people and the emotions are so genuine against the backdrop of soap opera level silliness. Plus it’s a cosy holiday film. Extra bonus points for that. And a hearty hell yes to both Sandy and Bill. He makes furniture and looks wistful and angry and utterly and totally head over heels. Nnngh.

  23. Carrie Lofty
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 13:47:19

    Love, love, love, love this movie. The scene where she talks to Peter (“Have you ever been so alone you spend the night confusing a man in a coma?”) just breaks me. I saw it six times in the theater during the summer of 1995. I was between relationships and desperately wanted a “good guy” in my life. When Lucy asks Jack to give her one reason why she shouldn’t marry Peter, he says, “I can’t.” Not that he didn’t have a list of reasons 100 miles long, but that he literally couldn’t interfere. He loved them both too much to be selfish and make trouble. SO hot.

  24. Elizabeth Gunther
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 14:06:50

    I think I what I like best is having the “less handsome” guy win the girl.

    Who was the “mpre handsome” guy? Dear lord, the brother is…ew. *shudders*.

    I absolutely love this movie. My mom and I watched it when i was home for the weekend about a month ago. Usually, she deletes movies/tv shows after she watches them, but this one stayed. I honestly could not tell you when i saw this movie for the first time because i have seen it so much.

  25. Estara
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 15:32:59

    Okay I just have to post, if simply to close that open b-tag…

    Gah, didn’t work… maybe because it’s inherent in the original article?

  26. Jayne
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 18:57:33

    @Estara: No, it snuck in somehow. Dunno how as I don’t remember putting it there but it’s gone now.

  27. Jayne
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 18:59:24

    @Elizabeth Gunther: I think Peter Gallagher is striking but he needs to tame those eyebrows a bit. Bill Pullman would win hands down for me.

  28. Jayne
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 19:01:23

    @Carrie Lofty: That scene when she asks him for a reason not to marry Peter and he won’t give her one is so touching. You can see he desperately wants a relationship with Lucy but won’t interfere.

  29. Kelly C.
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 19:23:37

    I too watch this movie anytime / everytime it is on.

    And I have never gotten the Peter Gallagher appeal. Different strokes and all that I suppose.

  30. Jayne
    Jul 17, 2010 @ 06:02:49

    @cate: Sorry your post got lost in our spam filter. No, I’d never heard of Miranda before but – intrepid movie watcher that I am – I’ve managed to track down a DVD copy of it and will give it a whirl. Thanks for the rec!

  31. cate
    Jul 17, 2010 @ 06:06:07

    You’re welcome Jayne – hope you enjoy it

  32. Diana Peterfreund
    Jul 18, 2010 @ 12:12:12

    I love this film. I watch it every Xmas, and then sometimes when I need a “pick me up.” I love how sweet it is — you don’t need a lot of sexy scenes to really sell the romance. I love how it’s all about family. Sandra Bullock is beautiful, yes, so they don’t try to make out like she’s “ugly” or whatever, but they do make it believable that she’s shy and lonely and doesn’t really have anyone in her life to count on and THAT’S why she blends into the background so much that even the hot dog vendor doesn’t remember her.

    I love how even in the midst of their personal tragedy, the family makes time to get her a present and make her a “family” stocking. That family is just what she needs, even before Jack turns up.

  33. sami
    Jul 20, 2010 @ 03:17:29

    One of my fav movies of all time. Thanks for the review, I agree with all of it.

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