Romancing the Improbable

Last night, I re-watched one of my favorite movies, While You Were Sleeping. I hadn’t seen it in a very long time and I was struck, once again, by the fundamental paradox of it: they manage to build plausible characters and realistic character development within a plot frame that, by all rights, shouldn’t work at all. It’s about a woman who claims to be engaged to a guy in a coma, for heaven’s sake. It’s absurd. And yet, it works. Really, really well.

My other “it shouldn’t work but it does”? Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Nobody’s Baby But Mine. A physicist seduces a football player– pretending to be a prostitute!– because she wants to water down her IQ in her offspring. Really? Really. In the abstract, it’s even more ridiculous than the guy in the coma premise– but I’ve read it at least a half dozen times.

Do you have “it shouldn’t, but it does” favorites?


  1. Carole Rae on December 16, 2011 at 11:58 am

    I simply loved ‘While You Were Sleeping’. GREAT movie, but yes…the plot seems like it would never happen in real life. =D

    Another favorite with the it-would-never-happen-but-I-still-love-it plot is ‘Alex and Emma’.

    “Alex is an author whose writer’s block and gambling debts have landed him in a jam. In order get loan sharks off his back, he must finish his novel in 30 days or wind up dead. To help him complete his manuscript he hires stenographer Emma. As Alex begins to dictate his tale of a romantic love triangle to the charming yet somewhat opinionated stenographer, Emma challenges his ideas at every turn. Her unsolicited yet intriguing input begins to inadvertently influence Alex and his story and soon real life begins to imitate art.”

  2. Céline on December 16, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    While you were sleeping is also a favourite of mine! I don’t know how many times I watched it, over and over again… yes, the plot is improbable, but it works, every single time! 🙂

  3. Lauren on December 16, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Carole, I would definitely call a novel in fifty days an “it would never happen” plot! At least for me. I know other people who have pulled that sort of thing off….

  4. SusanN on December 16, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    I like AYWS and always watch it when it comes on, but. . . I’m always left with the feeling that there should have been more, that it should have been better. I can’t even put my finger on why exactly, but it’s one of those movies that almost gets “there” but then falls short. And I’m left with this vague feeling of unfulfillment and dissatisfaction.

    Or maybe I’m just thinking about my life. 🙂

  5. SusanN on December 16, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    And, of course, the movie acronym should be WYWS. Hit the submit button too fast!

  6. Jessica C on December 16, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Oh I love While You Were Sleeping! Totally get what you’re saying about it-shouldn’t-work-but-does. Another movie like that is Kate and Leopold, which I half-like – the half I like is Hugh Jackman *swoon* the half I don’t like is Meg Ryan. She seems to be sleepwalking through the movie. With another actress in her role, I think it would be a perfect example of shouldn’t-work-but-does.

    Another movie that does this for me is Love Actually (and I loved the article link you posted on this movie). Esp the Colin Firth portion of it. It’s my favourite story of the lot (well, that and Bill Nighy’s part, because he is hilarious) in spite of the fact that it is totally insane. What writer uses a typewriter (!) and doesn’t make copies? (!!!) A couple who can’t talk to each other fall in love and get married in such a small space of time??? Totally insane, yet I love it.

Leave a Comment