Well hot damn, this bracket did NOT go the way I expected it to! These films were a welcome moment of levity after last week's duo, but I went into this one thinking I had it all figured out and OH BOY WAS I INCORRECT.
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Directed by: Nora Ephron
Written by: Nora Ephron, Jeff Arch, David S. Ward
Starring: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Ross Malinger, Rosie O'Donnell
IMDB Synopsis: A recently widowed man's son calls a radio talk-show in an attempt to find his father a partner.
I originally had When Harry Met Sally on here to represent Ephron, but changed it at the last minute because I forgot that she didn't actually direct it, Rob Reiner did! Oops. Also, my partner had NEVER SEEN Sleepless in Seattle, and I actually couldn't remember the last time I'd seen it either.
Since it came out in '93 I was anticipating for there to be some dated moments, but I legitimately forgot just how awkward some of them are... Don't get me wrong, I adore Ephron and this still remains an iconic rom-com from an era when that actually meant something. But do you guys remember the part where Meg Ryan straight up stalks Tom Hanks?? Because I totally forgot about that!! For how often I say "if a woman did that, you wouldn't be okay with it!" it's only fair that I play that game both ways... If Tom Hanks got on a plane and flew across the country to stalk Meg Ryan because he heard her on a radio and thought she might be the love of his life, this would be a Very Different Movie. But because it was a lady doing the stalking - and not just any lady, but the befuddled and adorable messy package that is Meg Ryan at her peak - we allow it.
(Sidebar, how come Hugh Grant and Meg Ryan were never in a rom-com together? We could've called it Befuddled! I can see the poster now!)
Other fun observations:
1) Why the HELL wasn't this a movie about Meg Ryan and Rosie O'Donnell realizing that Men Are Trash and becoming an adorable lesbian couple instead?? "She likes cats, yoga, and white linen.. but she likes dogs, hiking, and flannel! How will these two sapphic opposites work things out?" Not gonna lie, I'd watch it.
2) I had to look up Ross Malinger to see where the heck he went after this movie, and you'll never guess!!! He's the voice of TJ Detweiller, from one of the most ICONIC 90's cartoons of all time: Recess! (From 1997-1998, that is. From 1998-2001 the character was voiced by Andrew Lawrence). I'm at the point of quarantining where I've reverted to watching TV shows from my childhood so I have actually re-watched Recess pretty recently, and you know what? It fucking holds up. (So does Gargoyles! If anyone's interested...)
3) Speaking of Malinger... It is a testament to the incredible presence and shared chemistry of Ryan & Hanks that their characters are only onscreen together for about 60 seconds and yet we as an audience are riveted and rooting for them. That being said, I think we can all agree that the real scene-stealing duo (besides Ryan & O'Donnell as the Lesbians Who Almost Were!) is Hanks & Malinger. Genuinely fantastic child acting, including a very fun cameo from Baby Gaby Hoffmann.
4) Speaking of cameos, did anyone else remember that Hanks' real life wife Rita Wilson was in this?? And gives WITHOUT A DOUBT the funniest monologue of the whole movie?? Because this is literally exactly what I look when I'm performing a play-by-play of a movie no one's seen or cares about after I've had a bottle of wine. Did we know that Wilson was a great actress? Why isn't she in more things??
Overall, the writing is still a bit clunky when compared to something like When Harry Met Sally. To be honest, I was vaguely reminded of the same feelings I had when watching Cavani's work... Ephron is by no means as sexist, degrading, or brutal, but I did catch myself wondering: is Ephron making these choices because she really believes they're good ones, or because she's been conditioned to believe that they are funny and normal and what people want to watch?
For example, as funny as the above scene with Rita Wilson is, I found myself getting so irritated that the men in her life - "SUCH NICE GUYS" - were laughing and mocking her for feeling emotional about something that clearly meant a lot to her. Frankly I would've hated the entire scene if it weren't for Wilson's laugh at the end, letting us know that she's a good sport and can see the levity in the situation (and again, her hilarious fucking delivery). But like...? Ew, no? Stop mocking women for things that they are passionate about and belittling them because they are comfortable expressing "messy" emotions? Not my favorite.
The Parent Trap (1998)
Directed by: Nancy Meyers
Written by: David Swift, Nancy Meyers, & Charles Shyer (screenplay) & Erich Kästner (book)
Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson, Elaine Hendrix, Lisa Ann Walter
IMDB Synopsis: Identical twins Annie and Hallie, separated at birth and each raised by one of their biological parents, later discover each other for the first time at summer camp and make a plan to bring their wayward parents back together.
I'm sorry but before I can go on a moment longer, literally all I can think about is how Nancy Meyers is Rosa Diaz's favorite director and how goddamn hilarious that is:
There are two things you should know before going into this:
1) This was my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE MOVIE when I was 11.
2) I have not seen this movie since I was 11.
Also, what the heck was it about the 90's and our obsession with twins? Mary-Kate & Ashley Olson (did anyone else think they were triplets named Mary, Kate, and Ashley Olson? No? Just me?), The Parent Trap, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera (did anyone else secretly fantasize that we would find out they were long-lost twin sisters? No? Just me?) Zach and Cody...? Unclear.
Now, for some observations:
1) Baby Lindsay Lohan is SO FUCKING GAY IN THIS MOVIE HAHAHA
2) JANICE FROM FRIENDS IS THEIR CAMP COUNSELOR LOL!!!
3) Every SINGLE GIRL under the age of 15 when this movie came out tried to replicate this handshake and if she says she didn't SHE IS LYING
4) Was there a single woman in the world we collectively DESPISED more than Meredith Blake?! Also I honestly don't know what's more INSANE, that her character is supposed to be 26 years old or the fact that THE ACTRESS WAS ACTUALLY 28 WHEN THIS FILMED?!?!?!?! (Elaine Hendrix) Seriously though, I was expecting to find more slut-shamey references to her - I mean, they literally play evil saxophone Jessica Rabbit music every time she's onscreen - but then she has this excellent scene with Baby Lohan where she's like "Hey, it's not a crime to be young and beautiful" and Baby Lohan is like "Yeah you're right, it's not. But good relationships are about more than sex. And also you're just like a huge bummer." (Paraphrased)
The point is, Meyers actually makes the very important distinction that just because Meredith is sexy and evil, that does not mean that sexy = evil.
6) You can tell you're officially old when you are more sexually attracted to the real estate in a movie than any of the actual characters. BECAUSE OH MY GOD THAT NAPA VALLEY VINEYARD MANSION IS EVERYTHING I'VE EVER WANTED. (It was filmed at the Staglin Family Vineyards and you can actually go visit it!)
7) Baller fucking soundtrack though, eh?
8) And finally, RIP Natasha Richardson. Goddamn she was an incredible woman, actress, and icon.
And the winner is...
OKAY SO IT OBVIOUSLY LOOKS LIKE SARAH'S ELEVEN YEAR OLD SENTIMENTALITY IS GONNA WIN THIS ONE. I AM AS SURPRISED AS YOU ARE.
But also... and I know I am a MONSTER FOR SAYING THIS, but... maybe Nora Ephron is just a better writer than a director? Because of this was a contest between When Harry Met Sally and Parent Trap, I don't think Meyers would be winning. But EPHRON DIDN'T DIRECT IT, and this is Matriarch Madness after all, not Women Writer's Madness.
Sleepless was, ultimately, a little clumsy and cringey in the re-watch. I mean let's be real, it's actually just a series of vignettes and Meg Ryan monologues, and Ryan really does best when she has a good opposite to bounce off of. Parent Trap had me giggling and reminiscing and actually excited about watching the end, even though we all know what the heck is gonna happen. The "sillier" parts that are in all kids movies to make the dumbest ones laugh weren't even that bad (and hated those kinds of throwaway jokes when I was a child, too, so this isn't me being a cranky old broad. This is just me).
I really don't know what's come over me. Maybe it's the quarantine. Maybe it's the PMS. Maybe it's the fact that sometimes formulaic tropes work! (Just kidding guys. It was the fucking Napa House. That's who the real winner is. No shame.)