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Film / While You Were Sleeping

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A 1995 Romantic Comedy directed by Jon Turteltaub and starring Sandra Bullock.

Lucy is a lonely transit worker in Chicago who by chance is mistaken for the fiancée of a rich bachelor named Peter (Peter Gallagher) when the latter gets mugged on Christmas Day and falls into a coma. His family are very welcoming to her and she finds herself slowly falling in love with the whole charade... when Peter's younger brother Jack (Bill Pullman) arrives, and suspects that not all is as it appears. Things become even more complicated when Lucy finds herself falling in love with him instead.

Bullock received a nomination for a Best Actress Golden Globe for this movie.


Provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Joey is a rare male example of this trope, being not quite a Stalker with a Crush but still annoyingly fixated in his onesided affection for Lucy. In Joey's defense, he doesn't seem to be intentionally abhorrent, and his admiration for Lucy is pretty genuine. He's just... weird.
    Joey: Okay, Lucy, it's either me or him!
    Lucy: [nonchalantly, without missing a beat] Him.
    Joey: ...You don't have to answer right away.
  • A-Cup Angst: Played with in a bit of self-deprecation. Jack asks Lucy what her father was like, and Lucy says dad looked a lot like her, specifying, "Brown hair, flat chest..."
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The movie begins with Lucy as a child.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: The movie never quite reveals why Jack is so suspicious that Lucy is Peter's fiancée, beyond some hints that it's really because he's attracted to her. It initially seems to hint that Jack has met Peter's actual fiancée, but it's eventually made clear he hasn't. In their second-act falling out, Jack does (rather tactlessly) claim that Lucy isn't Peter's type, and while Lucy naturally takes a certain degree of offence to this our meeting with Ashley — his actual (sort-of) fiance — suggests an attraction to rather highly-strung, self-centered and buxom blondes.
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  • Becoming the Mask: The longer Lucy spends with the Callaghans, the more she becomes to feel part of their family even though there is no genuine link between them. This eventually escalates to the point that when Peter comes out of his coma and spends some time with her, he eventually decides that she must be his fiancée and proposes marriage "again".
  • Betty and Veronica: Peter is the rich and handsome lawyer while Jack is the ruggedly handsome craftsman. Jack has the edge because Lucy actually knows him.
  • Big Eater: Lucy — just listen in on her Chinese takeout orders.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Peter is a downplayed example: He's not exactly a jerk, just way off the idealized image of him conjured by Lucy (and to some extent by the other members of his family).
  • Brick Joke:
    • When Lucy and Jack deliver the couch to Peter's apartment, they knock over a vase with blue water and stain the floor. Later at the wedding, Lucy reveals all, ending with, "Sorry about your carpet." Peter nods and then realizes that he has no idea what she's talking about and asks, "What about my carpet?"
    • The nature of Peter's earlier accident while playing basketball comes in handy later when Lucy has to prove that she is Peter's fiancée.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Things would be a lot easier if Lucy could just explain the situation from the start. To be fair, she does try a bunch of times, but inevitably gets cut off or interrupted before she can, until the point arrives when revealing it would be even more awkward.
  • Chick Flick: A sweet Romantic Comedy with lovable leads, set around the holidays. It's just cute.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Elsie, the grandmother of the family, appears to within the grips of some form of senility, which generally manifests itself within rather odd and not-quite-there non-sequiturs. For example, she reacts to the reveal of the Groin Attack incident by cheerfully remarking that Peter now "has more room in his jockey shorts!"
  • Convenient Coma: After his tumble on the L-train tracks, Peter Callaghan spends most of the movie in the kind of coma that keeps him out of action for at least a week but conveniently results in no long-term physical, psychological or cognitive issues. But since he can't remember Lucy, everyone assumes he must have a wire loose somewhere.
  • Cool Big Sis: Lucy becomes this for Mary, Peter's sister.
  • Crossdresser: Joey seems to dabble in this, being that he can't help trying on Lucy's shoes.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • At one point, Lucy and Ashley — supposedly Peter's real fiancée — board the same elevator at the hospital, both intending to speak to Peter at the same time. This would seem to be the build-up to sparks flying... except Lucy, unaware that Peter's been moved, ends up getting off on the wrong floor, and completely misses Ashley's confrontation with Peter. The two never end up really meeting.
    • The night before Lucy and Peter's planned wedding, Lucy asks Jack if there's any reason for her to call off the wedding. Jack lies and says no. Lucy and Jack are very much in love with each other by this point, and against the wedding to Peter, but they each go along with it because they think it's what the other wants.
  • The Dutiful Son/The Un-Favourite: Jack is always being compared to Peter. However, based on the family's reaction when when Ashley shows up at the wedding, it does appear that this isn't the first time Peter has caused an upheaval.
  • Easily Forgiven: The Callaghan family seem stunned when Lucy finally admits she was just a bystander who got in over her head, but it doesn't stop them from accepting her as Jack's fiancée.
  • Fake Boobs: Discussed, as part of what appears to be Peter's previously rather superficial attitudes towards women. When Ashley and Peter are having an argument in his hospital room over his breaking up with her and his "getting engaged", it eventually comes up that Peter has apparently paid for Ashley to have cosmetic surgery on her nose and breasts.
  • Faint in Shock: When Peter actually proposes to Lucy for real, the scene is setting up for Lucy to do this... only for a nurse, who is aware of the situation, to be overcome by the emotion of the moment and swoon herself. This leads to a moment of awkwardness where Lucy is clearly a bit flustered and unsure of whether she should respond to the proposal or the unconscious nurse first.
  • Feet-First Introduction: The first thing we see of Jack is his boots stepping out of his truck. Jack is the last major character to be introduced, and this shot teases out his introduction by making us wait a few seconds longer to see his face. Focusing on Jack's workboots and jeans also highlights his working class lifestyle, as contrasted with Peter's fancier clothes and lifestyle.
  • Finale Title Drop: Lucy gives the name of the movie as the last line:
    Lucy: Peter once asked me when I fell in love with Jack. And I told him, "It was while you were sleeping."
  • Flashback Effects: Lampshaded. Lucy's reminiscing about her childhood at the beginning has a sepia filter over it, leading a puzzled Lucy to note in her narration that she doesn't remember her childhood "being this orange".
  • Follow in My Footsteps: Jack wants to start his own carpentry business, but his father is set on him inheriting the family business. When Jack finally works up the courage to admit to his father he doesn't want to do this, his father is upset... because if he'd known sooner, he could have sold his business and retired a year ago. He reacts to Jack's actual career aspirations with (somewhat snarky) goodwill, however.
  • Foreshadowing: Midge asks Lucy what was the first thing she noticed about Peter. She says it was his smile, and Ox says that Peter's teeth are very expensive caps. This foreshadows the fact that everything she admires about Peter is fake.
  • Free Prize at the Bottom: Apparently, this is why Jack likes to steal his sister's favorite breakfast cereal.
  • Has a Type:
    • When Jack is asked about "his type", he deliberately gives a false answer (blondes) to hide his feelings (and flatter his blonde mother). Only for his kid sister to relate what his real type is: a general description that easily includes Lucy.
    • During an argument, Jack claims — somewhat tactlessly — that Lucy is not Peter's type, explaining his skepticism of their engagement but hurting her feelings in the process. If true, Peter's type apparently includes rather superficial and buxom blondes like Ashley.
  • If You Ever Do Anything To Hurt Them: It's very subtly done, but Saul's conversation with Lucy on the doorstep of Peter and Jack's parents' house before they enter the Christmas celebration is essentially this; having secretly learnt the night before that Lucy isn't Peter's fiancée, he's scoping out what her motives are and gently warning her that if she does have malicious intent she'll answer to him. She doesn't pick up on it and he ends up sufficiently convinced of her fundamental decency and sincerity to eventually persuade her to keep up the masquerade, at least temporarily, for everyone's good.
  • Imaginary Love Triangle: Jack and Lucy begin to develop feelings for each other while Jack is convinced she is his brother's fiancée.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Played with. One of the reasons that Lucy's so hurt by Jack's Mistaken for Pregnant misunderstanding is because she interprets it as being a reflection on her not being good enough for someone like Peter, the implication being that the only reason he'd ever marry her was if he'd knocked her up.
  • Irony: For years, Jack has been too ashamed to tell his father that he wants to leave the family business. When he finally does reveal the truth, Mr. Callaghan tells Jack that he would have sold the business for a nice sum and happily taken early retirement if he'd known Jack wanted out.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • What Peter turns out to be. Not a bad guy, just incredibly self-absorbed.
    • Joey also. As dumb and off-puttingly forward as he is, he seems legitimately ready to stand up for Lucy when he thinks Jack is bothering her.
  • Karma Houdini: The muggers who push Peter onto the tracks in the first place. They make a hasty escape while Lucy saves him.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: When Peter wakes up and, understandably, doesn't remember Lucy being his fiancée (or rescuer), everyone assumes he's got a dose of this despite the fact that he remembers absolutely everything else about his life. He gets to the point where he's reciting locker combinations he had in grade school before throwing up his hands and going along with it.
  • Loving a Shadow: Lucy has had a serious crush on Peter for a long time but has never really spoken to him.
  • Love Triangle: Lucy soon finds herself in the middle of a love triangle between Peter and his brother Jack. She's "engaged" to the former, despite them never actually talking, and develops an actual relationship with Jack.
  • Missing Mom: The movie never really makes a big deal of it, but Lucy's mother appears to have died before she was old enough to form lasting memories of her; the flashbacks to Lucy's childhood involve only her and her father.
  • Mistaken for Pregnant: Used as part of an introduction to guests that goes laughably wrong.
  • No Antagonist: Except for Peter's actual fiancée (who plays a very minor part in what happens anyway), the only obstacle is the awkward situation itself. Jack is initially positioned as an antagonist, being the only one who disbelieves that Lucy is engaged to Peter, but he gradually warms up to her.
  • Oblivious to Love: Peter to Lucy at the start of the film.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: At one point, Lucy encounters a co-worker of Peter's who remarks that Peter had had an "accident" earlier in the year as if Lucy would know all about it. Because Lucy naturally doesn't know a thing about it, she remarks "Accident?" The co-worker assumes this means Peter described it to her as some kind of assault, not an accident, and begins to rant, in the process giving her far more detail than she wanted.
  • One Drink Will Kill the Baby: Jack attempts to prevent Lucy from drinking booze when under the misconception that she's pregnant. In front of all her friends. It doesn't go so well, largely because this occurs during the Seven Minute Lull.
  • Parental Abandonment: After her mother's death (which Lucy says was when she was very small) Lucy appears to have been raised solely by her father, who himself has passed away not long before the events of the movie. The fact that Peter and Jack's parents are warm, inviting, and loving people is one of the reasons she finds it hard to give up the masquerade.
  • Plastic Bitch: Ashley is a fairly rude and selfish person, and it's mentioned that Peter paid for her to get a nose job and breast implants.
  • Pull the Thread: Jack attempts to do this initially with Lucy. However, owing to a series of humorous coincidences, Lucy somehow manages to be able to bluff her way past all of his questions.
  • Rich Bitch: Ashley Bartlett-Bacon, Peter's actual fiancée. Except not quite — she actually said no, but changed her mind — but is also still married.
  • Running Gag: Ice is slippery: in the opening credits we see a random ice-skater fall on his backside, later a newspaper delivery boy flies off his bike, and finally there's an extended sequence of Lucy and Jack trying (and failing) to make it to her front door without falling over.
  • Secret-Keeper:
    • Sol eavesdrops on Lucy talking to a comatose Peter and finds out they aren't engaged, but agrees to keep her secret to protect Peter's family from being hurt.
    • Lucy tells her boss what's going on, and he gets confused trying to keep up with the ensuing plot twists.
  • Shrinking Violet: Part of what fuels the Cannot Spit It Out situation is that Lucy is naturally a very shy, withdrawn, and introverted person who avoids conflict and doesn't really speak up for herself. So when she's thrown into a situation where all attention is on her and she's surrounded by boisterous, extroverted, and welcoming people with a tendency to talk over others, she finds it hard to navigate.
  • Slapstick: An unexpected one on Christmas morning with the paper-boy on the bike.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Or know, at least. When Jack's suspicion finally boils over, he confronts Lucy in front of the family and eventually demands that Lucy prove she's Peter's fiancée by revealing something that Peter has only told her. By a quirk of fate, however, Lucy has happened to come by the knowledge that, owing to an unfortunate sporting accident, Peter only has one testicle. An awkward situation for all concerned ensues.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Exaggerated. About four people raise their objections to Lucy and Peter's wedding. Including Lucy herself and Jack, for obvious reasons. And none of them even waits for the fateful line to say it. Although technically speaking one of the objections is the husband of Peter's mistress objecting to her objection.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Lucy's infatuation with Peter initially borders on this, at least a little; although she's under no delusions about the exact nature of her relationship with Peter, she's nevertheless convinced that she's in love with and has built up a fantasy scenario of a potential relationship with a man she knows solely from a series of second-long interactions through a transit station token booth. She's a lot nicer and sweeter than the usual example, however, and eventually grows out of it over the course of the movie. It's also more out of her fundamental sadness and loneliness than any serious obsession.
  • Stock Sound Effects: When Lucy first talks to Peter in the hospital, the ventilator in his single room is operating. Peter only has a nasal cannula, so he would not be hooked up to a ventilator.
  • Title Drop: The last line of the film.
  • Tragic Keepsake: It's not really belaboured, but a stray line of dialogue reveals that the heavy, unflattering man's overcoat that Lucy is frequently seen wearing belonged to her beloved and now deceased father, implying it's become this for her.
  • Under the Mistletoe: Lucy and Jack at Christmas.
  • Wrong Guy First: After being mistaken for Peter's fiancée, Lucy begins to realize that he's nothing like her fantasy. And then she starts to have feelings for Jack, who does turn out to be Mr. Right.