After his wife Maggie passes away, Sam Baldwin and his adolescent son Jonah relocate from Chicago to Seattle to escape the grief associated with Maggie's death. Eighteen months later, Sam is still grieving and can't sleep. Although Jonah misses his mother, he wants his father to get a new wife despite Sam having not even contemplated dating again. On Christmas Eve, Sam, on Jonah's initiative, ends up pouring his heart out on a national radio talk show about his magical and perfect marriage to Maggie, and how much he still misses her. Among the many women who hears Sam's story and falls in love with him solely because of it is Annie Reed, a Baltimore based newspaper writer. Annie's infatuation with Sam's story and by association Sam himself is despite being already engaged. But Annie's relationship with her straight-laced fiancé Walter is unlike her dream love life in the movie An Affair to Remember (1957). She even writes to Sam proposing they meet atop the Empire State Building on ... Written by
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Look, Annie... I love you. But let's leave that out of this. I don't want to be someone that you're settling for. I don't want to be someone that anyone settles for. Marriage is hard enough without bringing such low expectations into it, isn't it?
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I enjoyed it for its characters and performances, and was thankful for what wasn't there.
This is a movie with characters and performances which are appealing, and it is an old-fashioned, feel-good love story. The film also has a bit of sadness in its early part, thankfully not overdone. The five lead characters and the performances by their actors (Hanks, Ryan, Malinger, Pullman and O'Donnell) are all engaging.
The primary members of the support cast are also excellent (David Pierce, Annie's brother; Garber and Wilson as Sam's brother-in-law and sister; Reiner as his colleague/friend; young Gaby Hoffman; and Barbara Garrick as Sam's brief girlfriend).
The story, juxtaposed with the classic Grant/Kerr predecessor, could have provided an excessive gimmick, but here it worked well. And I was grateful for some things I didn't find in this flick. Although I watched the program like everyone else, I found Rob Reiner's character, acting and presence in "All in the Family" to be obnoxious and annoying, ALL THE TIME, and watched the program in spite of his presence. And I have found Rosie O'Donnell's presence to be the epitomé of ANNOYING in every respect, every time I've observed her, previously. But in this film, I enjoyed both of their performances completely. Children in movies can also be an irritating presence, but Malinger and Hoffman were delightful as son Jonah, and his little neighbor/friend. Barbara Garrick, with a supporting role here (as in "The Firm") is an appealing actress, for whom one would wish more prominent roles.
Tom Hanks is one of the foremost actors of our time, but even he can go a smidgen too far in a characterization (I thought he did so in both "Forrest Gump" and "Philadelphia"). But he certainly didn't here. Watch, enjoy, and feel good.
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