Tom Hanks discusses the theme that unites his two classic rom-coms Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. Hanks became a ’90s rom-com king thanks to his performance in Nora Ephron’s 1993 film Sleepless in Seattle. In the smash hit movie, Hanks plays a widower who wins the heart of a woman (Meg Ryan) after she hears him talking about his grief on a radio call-in show.
Having scored big with Sleepless in Seattle, it was natural for Ephron, Hanks and Ryan to later reunite for another stab at the rom-com genre. The resulting movie, You’ve Got Mail, starred Hanks and Ryan as rival bookstore owners who strike up a much more friendly relationship online. Though You’ve Got Mail was marginally a bigger hit than Sleepless in Seattle, it currently holds a slightly lower score on Rotten Tomatoes, reflecting the general sentiment that Sleepless is the better of the two Hanks-Ryan rom-coms.
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Both rom-coms of course also played a big part in Hanks becoming arguably the biggest star in Hollywood by the late 1990s. Appearing on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, the still-active star had the opportunity to talk about his big 1990s rom-com swings, and pointed out the theme that unites the two movies – a theme that has only become more relevant with the explosion of social media and the phenomenon of internet-fueled relationships. Hanks said:
The conceit behind both films have a lot to do with mass media. This personal contact comes by way of mass media. That we now all feel, because there is that ongoing difference between having fifty thousand followers on your Instagram account, which can make some people feel fantastic, and other people have fifteen million followers as well. When we did [You’ve Got Mail], I read it instantly and I said, “Oh, let’s do this. I think it’s great.” And Nora said “Yes, I think it’s great too. We have to hurry up and get the movie before something surpasses email.” On You’ve Got Mail. And she was absolutely right. The idea of having to log on to AOL now is quaint. … Well it comes down to, it’s all an examination of human behavior, the need to connect. And the realities that people project upon people they just heard once on the radio or got an email from.
Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail were indeed both ahead of their time in their examination of relationships launched via electronic means that later blossom into IRL love affairs. Of course by 2022 there have been many such films, some of which have gone down much darker roads than either of these two upbeat and romantic movies. By now it’s indeed more likely to see a film like Ingrid Goes West, that explores how parasocial relationships can go very wrong, than to see a movie that has characters discover each other via mass or social media and proceed to enjoy a happy ending together.
By one measure then, it could be said that Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail are both rather quaint in their view of a world where love can bloom between strangers who encounter each other first at a long distance. Indeed, Hanks himself seems sensitive to how dated You’ve Got Mail comes off, with his vintage 1998 view of electronic communication. And as Hanks points out, things like Instagram have only escalated, and added more layers of complication, to people’s efforts to connect over the internet. But as entertainment films, there’s no question about Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail both still rise above their occasional datedness to deliver a lot of rom-com delight, largely thanks to the classically charming team of Hanks and Ryan.
Source: Happy Sad Confused