Romantic Comedy

You've Got Mail

Distributed By: Warner Bros.

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

            I had seen bits and pieces of You’ve Got Mail over the years, but never the whole movie.  I found the romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks to be cute and quirky, but I really never felt like sitting down to watch the whole thing.  Then, one day, my friend bought herself a DVD copy of the film.  She loved the movie – even going so far as to watch it every time it was on television in addition to the number of times she had watched it on VHS.  I decided to sit down and give the whole movie a shot.

            Meg Ryan is Kathleen Kelly, the owner of The Shop Around the Corner, a small children’s bookshop in Manhattan.  The bookstore had been handed down to her by her mother after she passed away and has sentimental value to Kathleen.  By day, Kathleen works in the store, selling books and running story time.  At night, she comes home to her politically charged writer boyfriend Frank Navasky.  Things seem to be going well for Kathleen, but something is missing in her life.  She begins chatting via instant messaging with a man she met accidentally in an online chat room.  The discussions are limited to non-personal talks about life in general – no personal details allowed.  Finding that she enjoys the chats with her new friend immensely, she logs onto the computer more and more frequently, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend who seems to believe that computers are the devils of society.

            Tom Hanks is Joe Fox, son of Nelson Fox, bargain bookstore millionaire.  Joe is preparing to open up a new Fox Books store in Manhattan during the day and shacking up with his publisher girlfriend by night.  He, too, discovers that something is missing in his life and enters an online chat room.  Meeting an interesting woman in the chat room, he begins talking to her via instant message about life in general – no personal details allowed.  Can you see where I’m going with this?

            As it turns out, the book store that Joe Fox is about to erect is only a block or two away from Kathleen Kelly’s store.  A big name discount bookstore moving in so close to a small neighborhood bookstore means bad news for the small business owner.  As Kathleen struggles to compete with the newly erected Fox Books, she turns to her new friend for business advice.  Of course, there are no personal details allowed in their conversations.  Thus, neither chatter realizes that the person they are chatting with is their business world enemy.  As the chats grow more intense, Joe and Kathleen realize that something more is happening and decide they want to meet.  But when Joe discovers that it’s Kathleen he’s been talking to all this time, will he run as far away as fast as he can, or will he try to make the relationship work?

            You’ve Got Mail, directed by Nora Ephron, is really a movie with two stories.  A cyber remake of the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner, the movie is a love story involving two people who fall in love with anonymous partners and realize that the person they have fallen in love with is someone with whom they have been waging a bitter business rivalry.  It is also a bit of a commentary about what happens when a big business moves in and crowds out the small business owner.  When I originally saw portions of this film, I was reminded of a small book store on Astor Place in Manhattan that was forced to go out of business when the huge Barnes and Noble book store opened across the street.  In fact, at one point, I truly believed that this film was based upon that story since the tales were so very much alike.

            After finally watching the whole film, I have to say that I truly enjoyed You’ve Got Mail.  Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan seem to have a special charisma, making their love story incredibly believable.  Obviously, I’m not the only person who thinks so.  They’ve played lovers in two other films – Joe and the Volcano and Sleepless in Seattle.  The story is actually rather cute and I liked the way Nora Ephron and co-writer Delia Ephron brought the James Stewart film, The Shop Around the Corner, into the new age by changing the penpal letter writing into computer instant messaging.  It was an excellent way to modernize the film.  I also enjoyed the nod to the original film – note the name of Kathleen’s bookstore.  Having only seen bits and pieces of the film before, I had never realized how funny it was.  The best parts of the film are often the chats in which each party imparts their own little bits of wisdom.  Take, for example, Joe Fox’s explanation of the importance of Starbucks coffee shops to the fabric of our lives.  Hysterical, but true.  I also loved that the movie takes place in Manhattan.  It was nice to see all the familiar places again.  I haven’t been to Manhattan much over the last couple of years and it was nice to see some of the streets and stores I used to frequent when I worked their years ago.

            There are several DVD versions of You’ve Got Mail out there.  The version I watched contains a promo for The Shop Around the Corner and In the Good Old Summertime, an upper west side map tour of Manhattan, and the documentary HBO First Look: A Conversation with Nora Ephron.  Popping the DVD into your computer gives you access to numerous songs found on the You’ve Got Mail soundtrack, the ability to compare key scenes in You’ve Got Mail to the older movies that inspired the film, cast interviews and bios, web cards and more.

            You’ve Got Mail is a must own for any fan of romantic comedies.  This is not a sappy love story.  You’ve Got Mail is cute and quirky and actually contains some social commentary on the business world of today.  The film is easy to relate to in this world of cyber-relationships and viewers may see a great deal of themselves in the main characters as they watch them get to know each other in the cyber realm.  I’m happy to say that, now that I have actually seen the entire film, I’m a huge fan.


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