Why The New Year's Eve Scene Of 'While You Were Sleeping' Is So Empowering
Looking back at some of the best New Year’s Eve scenes in the movies, there are a number of memorable examples. There’s the joyful finale when Harry and Sally finally got together in When Harry Met Sally. There’s the budding friendship of Lieutenant Dan and Forrest spending their evening together in Forrest Gump. There’s even the frightening scene in which Michael Corleone tells his brother Fredo that he's broken his heart, planting the kiss of death on his lips in The Godfather Part II. But one New Year’s Eve scene, from the '90s rom-com While You Were Sleeping, stands out for a major reason — its female empowerment.
The oft-forgotten 1995 film tells the story of Lucy (Sandra Bullock), a woman who saves a man’s life only to be mistaken for his fiancé and embraced by his large, hilarious, and overbearing family. The movie is your typical romantic comedy, with funny moments, misunderstandings, a tender love story, and charming characters, but While You Were Sleeping'sNew Year’s Eve scene marks a pivotal moment in the film. It’s when Lucy, faced with unwanted advancements, epic mansplaining, and serious pregnancy policing, finally snaps, telling the men in her life that she’s done being messed with. The scene sees her taking control of her situation in a major, impressive way.
The sequence begins with an eye-roll worthy instance of unwanted attention. Lucy, who has spent Christmas with her comatose fiancé Peter’s family, is heading out for a party. On the way, however, she's accosted by her landlord’s creepy son, Joe Jr. Throughout the movie, he's been deemed harmless, but still has made repeated, unwanted sexual advances towards Lucy. This time, though, as he brings her a giant horseshoe of flowers, she thinks he’s finally making a sweet gesture with no ulterior motives. Yet Joe Jr. ruins a nice moment of friendship to ask if Lucy's wearing a black bra. As a result, she smacks him in the back of the head and leaves for her party.
Outside, Jack (Bill Pullman), brother to her comatose fiancé and the real love interest of the movie, is waiting for Lucy, because he’s heard it through the grapevine that she’s pregnant (she's not) and wants to discuss it. He has good intentions, but he acts like due to her "condition," she's helpless and in need of (male) assistance, ignoring her desire to walk herself to the party and being incredibly protective. When they arrive at the party (which he enters as well, despite not having her invitation), Lucy expresses her discomfort to a friend that Jack has "followed" her there, to which Jack seems oblivious. It's clear Lucy is frustrated, but at this point, she hasn't shared this with Jack.
That all changes, though, soon. The pure moment of "none of your damn business" comes when a frazzled Lucy heads for the punch bowl and Jack tries to stop her. “That’s spiked,” he warns her. “Thank god!” she says happily. But he announces that she shouldn't have any alcohol because “It’s not good for the baby,” in a loud voice the entire party seems to hear. Cue the record stop to end all record stops. Not only has Jack possibly revealed her "pregnancy" to an entire room of strangers before she’s even had a chance to tell the father, but he’s also totally just shamed a pregnant woman, treating her like a child, in front of people they both don’t really know. He may not realize she isn't actually pregnant, but his actions in regards to what he thinks is true are unwarranted and rude.
So, to recap: Jack follows Lucy to a party to which he isn't invited, makes people think she's pregnant, and shames her in front of strangers. And then, on their way home, practically accuses her of cheating on his brother with Joe Jr. (all the while trying to make his own moves on her). This is when Lucy snaps, and her mild annoyance becomes full blown feminist rage. She chastises Jack for believing a rumor spread by his teenage sister, tears down his ridiculous accusation, and calls him out on his sexist view of pregnancy and engagement. She's hurt and disappointed, but most of all, she's mad. Says Lucy,
“So the only reason your brother would want to marry someone like me is if I was pregnant, right?...You know what Jack, I’ve had a really lousy Christmas, you’ve just managed to kill my New Year’s, if you come back at Easter, you can burn down my apartment.”
It’s this moment when Lucy realizes that she can stop worrying about making everyone else happy, call out men for their unwarranted comments, and, instead, follow her own path. The change doesn't happen immediately; it takes her a few more missteps to fully come into herself. But the New Year's Eve scene marks the start of her transformation. For the majority of While You Were Sleeping, Lucy is forced to listen to and take orders from her potential new family, particularly Jack, who tries to mansplain things to her to no end. But on New Year’s Eve, Lucy finally speaks up, snapping back and finding empowerment. It's a great, feminist scene, and one of them most memorable New Year's-set moments in rom-com history.
Images: Buena Vista Pictures