As if there weren't enough issues dividing America, now along comes a movie to add another.
I'm talking, of course, about "Sleepless in Seattle," which is the surprise hit of the season. But it's so much more.
You know what I mean. If you don't, here's an actual, real-life conversation following a night at the movie that should explain it.
The Man: "I hated the movie. It was like 90 minutes of foreplay."
The Woman: "What's wrong with that?"
The Man (suddenly sheepish and maybe embarrassed): "N-n-nothing's wrong with that. There was just no payoff."
By "no payoff," he meant, of course, that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan -- hmm, how can I put this delicately? -- never quite hit the sheets. At least not where we could see them.
(The more the man talked, the worse it got for him. Which is why most men don't talk. Ask a woman over dinner how her day was at the office, and she actually tells you. She starts with the traffic on the way in and by the time she's gotten to 10:30 a.m., your eyes are glazing over and you know how the phrase "cut to the chase" came into being. Ask a man what happened at the office, and unless he was assaulted by circus midgets, he says, "Nothing. Would you pass the salt?")
What we have in "Sleepless" is a shameless example of what is known in the trade as a "chick flick." That means it's mushy and gooey and romantic and, most of all, doesn't have Sharon Stone in it.
Meg Ryan is attracted to the sensitivity in the voice of a man she's never met. This would not be believable if the roles were reversed.
When a guy chases a woman he's never met, it's Richard Dreyfuss after Suzanne Sommers and her T-bird in "American Graffiti." I don't think it was her sensitivity that was driving him nuts.
You see, what "Sleepless" does for men is force us to re-examine our values. We hate re-examining our values.
At the risk of generalizing here, women appreciate the build-up in a movie. It can move slowly, luxuriantly, endlessly. It can move at the pace of "Howards End," no doubt a wonderful movie if you've got, say, your entire life to watch it.
Men watching "Howards End" tend to do the George Bush thing. About 30 minutes into the movie, they're checking their watches. Doesn't anybody get blown up?
What I'm saying is, where women like build-up, men seem to go for resolution.
But maybe it's not as simple as that.
In a scientific survey of five men and five women, I asked what they liked in a movie.
The women all said they liked kissing.
The men all said they liked naked women.
Now these men were basically civilized in most ways. They even go to classy movies. They all saw "Henry V," although mainly for the big fight sequence.
But ask them for a classic scene from a classic movie and it's always something like what Susan Sarandon was doing with the lemons in "Atlantic City." At least nobody mentioned Bo Derek.
It isn't as if there isn't common ground here. Take a steamy movie like "Body Heat." Or "The Big Easy." I don't know anyone who didn't like "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." These are movies filled with romance. Men can appreciate romance and a story line, particularly if there are also some dead bodies.
But how many guys liked "Beaches"? How many guys liked "Steel Magnolias"? The list goes on. "Fried Green Tomatoes." Don't get me anywhere near "The Prince of Tides."
Then there's a movie like "A League of Their Own," which should attract men because it's got Madonna (although surprisingly clothed) and baseball. Tom Hanks, who manages a women's baseball team in the movie, plays a drunken chauvinist pig who becomes enlightened by the company of strong women. As if that ever happened in real life.
What they made was a woman's fantasy movie. The only time you ever see a man appear to be suddenly enlightened is if he's trying to seduce a woman or is facing serious jail time.
Look, let's be honest here. Maybe men don't know what women want, but women sure ought to know by now what men want. So, take your typical, well-meaning guy and you're going to have to help him out, movie-wise.
What I'm saying is, if you're going to do a remake of, say, "Love Story" and expect a guy to see it, Sharon Stone is going to have to play the lead.