I talked to a friend of mine tonight, she was checking on me and that surprised me in a way. She’s one of the very few who will ask. I’m beyond the one year mark of widowhood, according to society I should be healed up and okay again. Which brings me to something that disturbed me far more than it probably should.
I’ve wanted to move to Seattle but I’m still here, 2000 miles away. I’ve been bored, frustrated and getting depressed over many things. So I decided to watch Sleepless in Seattle as an escape, it’s a light romantic comedy, it unites being a widow/widower and moving to Seattle. I needed to kill some time and feel a little better, at least temporarily. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.
What I remember as a sweet little romantic movie is about a stalker who targets a man and then lies to a man who genuinely loves her and breaks some laws and compromises her ethics. Also it shows how easy it is for a person who lost his spouse to heal and start dating because people tell him he should.
I didn’t remember Meg Ryan abusing her job as a newspaper reporter to track down and spy on poor Tom Hanks and his precocious kid. In those early Internet days it was harder to do but she lies about her identity and credentials and gets away with it. She even flies across the country and takes pictures of him without his consent. She has a brief moment of doubt, that she might be a bad person but Rosie O’Donnell as her relentlessly supportive pal tells her nah, she’s not. Crisis resolved and she lies to poor Bill Pullman, whose only crime is he’s a little dull and not Tom Hanks, who believes all the crap she tells him. Meg being a lying morally questionable person I’d say Bill dodged a bullet there when she tells him ON VALENTINE’S DAY she thinks she loves somebody else, she has to go but hey, no hard feelings. Man, I felt so bad for Bill, who has to suck it up and smile while Meg runs off leaving him with the check, having to explain to all those family members and friends, cancel their registration at Tiffany’s and deal with being dumped. If I was Bill I’d make Meg take responsibility for all that stuff and explain herself.
As much as Meg bothered me Nora Ephron’s treatment of Tom Hanks’ grief bothered me a lot more. At first we see him and his son standing alone at his wife’s funeral, awkward post funeral visits and conversations with well-meaning married friends (ironically played by Tom Hanks’s real wife and Victor Garber, who I was almost dementedly gleeful to see now I know he’s gay and that changes how I see their scenes). A co-worker tries to help, giving him a card for a support group and Tom pulls out a stack of other cards he’s received and goes off on the poor guy. He imagines talking to his wife, even sees her and when he describes her to Dr. Nora (I get it, Nora, Dr. Nora, ha) there’s longing in his voice. He’s hurting, mourning and that’s understandable. It’s totally reasonable and realistic.
Then when he’s leaving for Seattle Rita Wilson tells him he’ll start dating again. He snaps that he’ll grow a new heart and she makes a weak apology that nobody believes. But that’s what happens.He’s had a whole two years to mourn and it’s time to snap out of it, to get on with his life. So he asks Rob Reiner about it and the next thing we see is him asking out a woman for a date. That it’s done with “Back in the Saddle Again,” by Gene Autry in the background makes it worse.
None of these well-meaning dolts have lost a spouse, have any experience with this kind of loss and all glibly assume he’s ready because he’s had two years of being depressed and gloomy and they are tired of it. I imagine Nora Ephron felt the same; the time limit on his grief was up and of course he would be ready and willing to “get back out there.” Seeing a sad man who misses his wife doesn’t say romantic comedy so we fast-forward past all that stuff and get to the fun part, what we came to see. The happy ending. We don’t see Tom going through her things, boxing them up and sending them to charity, we don’t see him looking at pictures of them or of her when he packs to go to Seattle, we don’t see Tom explaining his wife is gone to his son’s teachers, to neighbors and other people who haven’t heard. We don’t see much of his son’s grief either, which really bothered me. He’s a little sad but besides a bad dream he’s okay and eager to replace the mother he lost rather than remember her. I didn’t think about those things when I first saw this movie but I do now. Granted it would be a buzzkill, having to see some of their hurt and tears but editing those parts out left me feeling cheated.
And when Tom starts dating, that made me cringe. It was fairly easy, he asked a woman and she said yes. They began dating and there was no guilt or reluctance on Tom’s part about starting a new relationship. The woman also made me cringe but the reasons why changed. Years before it was because she seemed phony, had an annoying laugh and bad hair. Now it was because I saw her as sad and desperate to please, to find and latch onto a man because she didn’t want to be alone. Her hair was still bad.
Even though I didn’t like Tom’s girlfriend I felt badly for her too. Being stood up because Tom’s son runs away in a attempt to foil his dad’s weekend with her as well as to find his new mother must have sucked for her. But having him show up later with Meg Ryan, I’d love to see Tom explain all this to her. I bet it still would have been less mean and selfish than Meg’s goodbye to Bill. I like to think that maybe somehow Tom’s girlfriend and Bill got together and had their well-deserved happy ending.
The ending which made me sigh now made me want to shake Tom by the shoulders and warn him about Meg. Yeah, you totally trust this strange woman holding your kid’s teddy bear, whom you feel warm happy feelings for but know nothing about. You at least recognize her as the nutcase in the middle of the road who nearly gets run down by a truck. It’s a sign, Tom. Run, take your kid and run back to Seattle. And tell Rob Reiner and everyone who says you need to do things you may not be ready for to shut up and go away.