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Columns Eleanor Ringel Cater

Sleep-themed movies for your sleepless nights

"Sleeping Beauty" poster (1959 version)

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

It’s not the best of times.

It’s not the worst of times either, as far as we know. At least, not yet.

But it’s certainly worrisome times.

Worrisome enough that some of us are losing sleep. So, at first, I thought I’d try to come up with some movies so incredibly boring that if you can stay awake during them, well, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din (the final line of Rudyard Kipling’s poem Gunga Din).

However, making that list, well, again, I bow to Gunga Din.

But thinking about it for a moment did put the word “sleep’ in my head, and so I thought I’d list a few films in which sleep, one way or another, is somehow central to the plot.

“Sleeping Beauty” poster (1959 version)

“Sleeping Beauty” – I prefer the 1959 Disney animated version for two reasons. First, no Disney princess has ever had hair like Aurora (aka, the Sleeping Beauty). It is astonishing —the most luxurious blonde locks imaginable. Not even Cinderella with her perfect mid-‘50s Senior Prom look can outdo her. Or Mulan’s sleek black mane. Or “Brave’s” Merida with her tangle of red curls.

Secondly – and this is a total OK, Boomer Moment – the Prince looks remarkably like Peter Fonda. Not the Fonda of “Easy Rider” but the earlier, tamer Fonda of “Tammy and the Doctor.” Don’t believe me?  Take a look at both.

“While You Were Sleeping” movie poster

“While You Were Sleeping” – Very early Sandra Bullock which is, in itself, a treat. However, Bullock isn’t the sleeping beauty here; that would be Peter Gallagher (“The Player,” “The O.C.”). She’s a lonely, woebegone token-taker for the Chicago El who has a huge puppy-dog crush on a Yuppie lawyer (Gallagher). He, of course, doesn’t even know she exists, but a near-fatal subway accident lands him in the hospital in a coma. His large boisterous family mistakes Bullock for his fiancée.

Yes, it’s a sitcom plot and there’s plenty of sitcom dialogue. But at base this is pure, sweet-natured romantic comedy.  The supporting cast includes Bill Pullman, Peter Boyle and Jack Warden, but the picture belongs to Bullock who’s adorable, even with a red nose and earmuffs. (Chicago; it’s cold).

“Sleepless in Seattle” movie poster

“Sleepless in Seattle” – Okay, so it’s still the same old story, but it’s rarely told as well – or as winsomely ­– as it is here by Nora Ephron and her sparkling stars (Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks).

In case you don’t remember…he’s a widowed architect living in Seattle (i.e., the one with insomnia); she’s a journalist in Baltimore, recently engaged to the wrong guy (Bill Pullman again). Fate trumps geography when Hanks’ son calls a radio talk show to say his despondent dad needs a new wife.

As dryly funny as it is moistly romantic, this irresistible fable reminds us it is possible to have a good laugh and a good cry at the same movie.


Eleanor Ringel

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.


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1 Comment

  1. CT Shaw April 28, 2020 8:12 pm

    Eleanor’s reviews are still as much fun—as enlightening—to read as the movies are to watch!



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