While You Were Sleeping (1995)

when you were sleeping

“I’m sick? You’re cheating on a vegetable.”

The Scoop: 1995 PG, directed by Jon Turteltaub and starring Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman, and Jack Warden

Tagline: A story about love at second sight.

Summary Capsule: A woman pretends to be the fiancé of the man of her dreams, who happens to be in a coma.


Eunice’s rating: 4 1/2 quirky everygirl self deprecating jokes out of 5.

Eunice’s review: I have a theory that everyone has a Sandra Bullock movie. For my sister in-law it’s The Lake House, for a PA I work with it’s Miss Congeniality, Bro1 The Proposal, for two of my friends it’s Practical Magic and Murder By Numbers, respectively. So on so forth and all the rest.

This is data I’ve gathered from years of listening to conversations, and what a person’s Sandra Bullock movie is says a lot about how their tastes run. I mean I haven’t taken this to Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon levels of thought time, but it is something I’ve noticed.

I would’ve been eight or nine when the first of MY Bullock movies came out: Love Potion No. 9, which the next year was replaced by Demolition Man (if you want to judge a nine/ten year old’s taste in movies go ahead, but the “Chief, you can take this job, and you can shovel it.” line still cracks me up). The year after that it was Speed.

And then came While You Were Sleeping. It has yet to be dethroned.

After her last relative, her father, dies, Lucy (Sandra Bullock) is a lonely woman. Her dream is to travel, but more specifically to go to Florence, just so she can get a stamp in her passport. Unfortunately, she’s stuck as a token collector for the CTA in Chicago, watching people and life pass her by. The one thing she looks forward to is when her dream man (Peter Gallagher) passes her booth on the way to his train everyday. Christmas comes around and, as the only one without family, Lucy is the go to worker during holidays. So she’s the only one around to save Dream Man’s life when he’s pushed off the platform and gets knocked into a coma. She goes along to the hospital, and after one big misunderstanding gets mistaken for his (turns out his name is Peter) fiance.

When Peter’s family shows up, Lucy sees the mix up, but is afraid of giving Grandma (Glynis Johns who is absolutely hilarious) a heart attack and decides to wait for a better time, like when Peter wakes up.

Of course the further she goes on the harder telling the truth becomes because she starts to fall in love with the idea of being accepted into this family and not being alone during the holidays for once. There’s just one snag, Peter’s brother Jack (Bill Pullman) knows something isn’t on the up and up. But during his attempts to catch Lucy in a lie, he ends up liking her. Like a lot. And she kinda likes him too.

I actually had a really hard time figuring out what it is I wanted to say about WYWS. I’m not big on romantic comedies, and the few I do like I can directly say that they have something to do with closure or acceptance, I don’t know maybe I just need something sad and/or morbid floating around in the background. But that’s not really present here (you could argue Lucy’s still grieving over her dad, but it isn’t like it’s a main focus of the movie). Or if they’re just really quirky like Strictly Ballroom or Danny Deckchair, but this never goes super quirky.

So when I was watching with the idea of writing a review in mind I think I figured it out. The characters in WYWS actually like each other. It’s like… Have you ever seen a romantic comedy with Matthew McConaughey? The main characters freakin’ hate each other. I can’t stand them they’re terrible and nasty and mean, somehow you’re supposed to believe they end up together at the end? No, in real life the ending would’ve been closer to War of the Roses.

But Lucy and Jack actually like each other. Like they laugh and make jokes and fight and then apologize to each other. The only hang up I have is that the movie takes place over about a month’s worth of time, but past that, I could totally believe in Jack and Lucy as a couple.

And the other characters actually like each other like family and friends do. And that may be the other thing that really draws me to it: The secondary characters. This is one of my top five Peter Boyle movies, Jack Warden and Glynis Johns have excellent chemistry, Jason Bernard as Lucy’s boss Jerry is so so funny, and Michael Rispoli as Lucy’s neighbor Joe Jr. is a well meaning oaf (this is the only thing I can think of that I’ve seen Rispoli in where he wasn’t a mafia bad guy). They remind me of people I’ve met in real life. Those crazy non sequitur conversations around the dinner table mirror some of my family get togethers.

And then there’s Peter. A lawyer who keeps glamor shots of himself in his wallet and all over his stark clinically neat apartment. As Lucy gets to know Peter through his personal effects and apartment, her knight in shining armor starts to tarnish. But by the time she realizes it’s Jack she wants, she doesn’t know how to stop the ball since it’s solidly rolling out of control.

Another thing is that while the basis of the plot is built on a huge misunderstanding, Lucy never comes off as mercenary or creepy. And it isn’t like she doesn’t tell anybody, but everyone she tells gives her the advice that she keep up the act to everyone else for the sake of the family. So is it completely ridiculous? Yeah. But it isn’t the biggest offense I’ve ever seen in the genre.

WYWS has been one of my top “comfort food” type movies for a long time. I like to put it on when I need to curl up and relax. Along with characters that get along, it has light comedy, and Christmas and New Year’s colors splashed all over it. It’s my warm and fuzzy Sandra Bullock movie.

Did you have... onions for lunch?
Did you have… onions for lunch?


  • While You Were Sleeping was originally written for a man and a comatose woman, but it was thought to be too creepy so they switched genders.
  • All the times I’ve seen this, the viewing for this review is the first time I’ve noticed the guy wiping out on the ice rink in the opening credits.

Groovy Quotes:

Lucy: Who is it?
Joe Jr.: Joe Jr.
Lucy: I’m not here.
Joe Jr.:….
Joe Jr.: I know that trick!

Elsie: I don’t drink anymore… I don’t drink any less, either!

Jerry: Listen, Lucy, when I told my mother I was getting married to my wife, her intestines exploded. You tell them the truth now, you may as well shoot grandma.

Elsie: I like Mass better in Latin. It’s nicer when you don’t know what they’re saying.

Joe Jr.: O.K., Lucy, it’s either me or him!
Lucy: Him.
Joe Jr.: You don’t have to answer right away.

Elsie: Look at the bright side. He has more room in his jockey shorts.

Jack: Tell me about your dad, what was he like?
Lucy: He was a lot like me, brown hair, flat chest.

Lucy: I’m having an affair. I like Jack.
Jerry: Who’s Jack?
Lucy: Peter’s brother.
Jerry: So?
Lucy: So he thinks I’m engaged.
Jerry: To who?
Lucy: To Peter.
Jerry: Lucy, I really don’t have time for this.
Lucy: No, you have to tell me what to do.
Jerry: Tell the truth.
Lucy: If I tell Jack I lied to his family he will *never* speak to me again. And Ox and Midge and Mary and Saul.
Jerry: Saul? Who’s Saul?
Lucy: The next door neighbor. But you know what? Actually, he knows.
Jerry: Lucy, you are born into a family. You do not join them like you do the marines.
Lucy: So what should I do?
Jerry: Pull the plug.
Lucy: You’re sick.
Jerry: I’m sick? You’re cheating on a vegetable.

Lucy: You give up your seat every day in the train.
Peter: Well… But that’s not heroic.
Lucy: It is to the person who sits in it.

Jack: I want you… not to be unhappy…

Peter: I’m making a clean start with Lucy. She is – She is – She… What is she? She’s…
Jack: I’d say that she gets under your skin as soon as you meet her. She drives you so nuts you don’t know whether to hug her or, or just really arm wrestle her. She would go all the way to Europe just to get a stamp in her passport. I don’t know if that amounts to insanity, or just being really, really… likable.
Peter: No, that’s not it.

If you liked this movie, try these:

One comment

  1. If I do have a Sandra Bullock movie, I’ve yet to discover it. Not that I’ve anything against her, but none of the things I’ve seen her in really stand out in my memory; they all sort of blur together.

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