American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"While You Were Sleeping" is one of those movies that blind-sides you with its charm. It starts out seeming sappy, and your expectations sink: Is everybody in this movie going to be cuddly and sort of dumb? Is every emotion and plot development going to be given a long windup before the pitch? Seems like it, but then a funny thing happens. While you're making up your mind that the movie's going nowhere, it starts to go somewhere.
The movie, shot in Chicago, stars Sandra Bullock, who became a star in "Speed" by surviving high-speed chases on a bus and a subway train, and is back in the transit system again, playing Lucy, who "sits in a booth like a veal," taking fares. She has a crush on Peter (Peter Gallagher), a commuter who looks to her like the perfect man.
One day, Peter is mugged and thrown onto the tracks, and Lucy races out of her booth and saves his life, although not without a dumb scene where she bends over his unconscious body and tells him, "Mister, there's a train coming, and it's fast!" Hearing that line, I wondered what kind of person would say it.
Was Lucy going to be a simpleminded innocent? Would anyone in real life be capable, under the circumstances, of thinking of such a goofy line? I doubted it, and I was beginning to develop an intense dislike for the movie, especially after Peter is hospitalized with a Movie Coma (a medical condition that requires him to remain unconscious for precisely as long as is convenient for the plot). Through a silly misunderstanding, the members of Peter's family become convinced that Lucy is his fiancee. Why does she allow them to persist in their misunderstanding? Because the plot depends on it, that's why.