Skunk Hour in Hollywood

Skunk Hour in Hollywood

It wasn’t good, but it was harmless.”

“Harmless and popular.”

Thus went an exchange after the movie Sleepless in Seattle. But, I wondered, could there be harm in sentimental romantic pabulum?

The plot is harmless enough. Architect Sam Baldwin’s wife dies, leaving him alone with his eight-year-old son, Jonah. Grief unhinges him, and the facile solutions suggested to him by his workmates—therapy, vacation, work—don’t appeal to him, so he chooses another facile solution—he moves to Seattle. Jonah is worried about his father, and around Christmas calls up a nationally broadcast radio show to share his worries. Soon the father is on the line talking about his grief and his magical life with his wife. Baltimore reporter Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) falls in love on first listen. Annie’s unsatisfied because there’s no magic in her love—her fiancé is boring, allergic, sexless, a mere function of the plot. The movie alternates between Annie and Sam; the two principals don’t actually meet until the last minute of the last reel. Of course it’s the boy who engineers their meeting—on top of the Empire State Building, on Valentine’s Day.