WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING is a gem of a movie. It tells the tale of
a lonely Chicago subway toll collector named Lucy (Sandra Bullock).
She dreams of speaking to a dashingly handsome guy called Peter
Callahan (Peter Gallagher) who passes by her tollbooth every day
without speaking. She lives in a small apartment and her conversations
consist of talking to her cat or to local nominal ladies' man and
actual slimeball called Joe Jr. (Michael Rispoli).
One cold Christmas day Peter speaks to her, but her mouth turns to
mush and she is unable to respond. An unhappy series of events turns
her would be lover into a vegetable. While Lucy is checking on him in
his comatose state in the hospital, his family (Peter Boyle, Glynis
Johns, Micole Mercurio, et. al.) decides that Lucy is Peter's fiance.
She is going to tell them the truth, but she falls in love with the
whole family and can not bring herself to do it. Jack Warden plays
Peter's godfather and the only one who knows Lucy's secret.
The problems really set in when Peter's brother Jack (Bill Pulman)
arrives. He suspects Lucy may be a fraud since she is a brunette and
not Peter's type. Peter's real girlfriend, Ashley Baily Bacon (Ally
Walker) is blond and is a hell-on-wheels type who, as the movie
evolves, keeps calling and leaving messages on Peter's answering
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING is a romantic comedy and although there is
tension and suspense about when Peter will wake up and what will he
say, it is of minor importance. The real story is the developing love
between Lucy and Jack. Pullman plays Jack as a shy and unassertive
character who is not quite sure of what to make of Lucy. Bullock plays
Lucy as a captivating woman with a winsome smile, but one that you
believe might work all day at a tollbooth while dreaming of her Prince
Charming. The chemistry between Lucy and Jack develops slowly and
naturally as it would with reserved characters of that sort in real
life. Rather than kiss they do some serious "leaning" as they call it
in the movie.
The writing by Fred Lebow and Dan Sullivan is marvelous. On the
one hand we have a romance that comes alive. On the other hand, we
have a comedy full of so many great lines that the audience was in a
constant state of mirth. My favorite and the audience's was when the
family asked Lucy to prove that she really was Peter's fiance. You
will have to see the movie to find out how she proved it. The writers
also did something unusual. They put in many scenes that were not
linked to any other part of the movie. They were there solely to
provide some good laughs, and they all worked. My favorite was the
paperboy on the ice.
The cast did real ensemble acting. It was as if the cast actually
was a family. Even the character of Joe Jr., I thought was well done,
and I generally detest characters like that in the movies. One
character I wish I had seen more of was the original girlfriend. Her
character was so outlandish relative to the sweetness of the others
that I wanted to see what she was going to do next.
The coldness of Chicago in winter was a good metaphor for the
loneliness of Lucy's life. The scene of the snow around the Callahan
family home on the other hand looked so Norman Rockwell and soothing.
Quite a contrast. Well done sets by Garreth Stover and beautiful
cinematography by Phedon Papamichael. I found myself wondering however
why they released what was clearly a Christmas movie in April.
Copyright © 1995 Steve Rhodes