MOVIE REVIEW: “You’ve Got Mail” stars Tom Hanks (Toy Story, The Terminal), Meg Ryan (When Harry Met Sally…, City of Angels), Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine, As Good as it Gets), Parker Posey (The Daytrippers, Superman Returns), Jean Stapleton (All in the Family [TV series], Michael), Dave Chappelle (Robin Hood: Men in Tights, A Star is Born ), Heather Burns (Two Weeks Notice, What’s Your Number?), Steve Zahn (War for the Planet of the Apes, Sahara), Dabney Coleman (WarGames, On Golden Pond), John Randolph (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Serpico), Hallee Hirsh (Speak, Lolita), Jeffrey Scaperrotta (Hollow Man, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit [TV series]), and Cara Seymour (Adaptation., American Psycho). It is directed by Nora Ephron (Julie & Julia, Sleepless in Seattle), who also wrote the screenplay with Delia Ephron (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Bewitched ).
Two competing bookstore owners unknowingly communicate in an online chatroom, sparking a romance that neither of them is aware of.
The dawn of the internet. Typically with that thread, we’d be inclined to watch a flick on the rise of artificial intelligence and the destruction of man. Maybe even a documentary on how social interaction has been negatively affected. But you know what I’d rather see on the subject? The 1998 rom-com “You’ve Got Mail.”
You heard me right. I’m talking online chatrooms. AOL all the way, baby. Of course, in the case of the rom-com powerhouse that is Hanks, Ryan, and Ephron, we get something even more magical. It’s blind dating stretched over weeks, with both participants already involved in relationships and trying to navigate their lives and needs. And what better comedy than to have the two people communicating online be business rivals in real life?
I’m a huge fan of Nora Ephron. Her dialogue is fast, witty, funny, and thought-provoking (all assets that belong to just about all my favorite writers). It’s a no-brainer for me when I see her name on something; I always feel more inclined to watch it. And while I grew up with “You’ve Got Mail” playing in the household kitchen, I felt a desire to sit down and see it with an analyst’s eye. The results of which were quite interesting.
“You’ve Got Mail” isn’t an original story, but rather a new take. Long before this release, there was “The Shop Around the Corner,” which starred James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan. After that, there were a few more iterations, those being “In the Good Old Summertime” and “She Loves Me,” a stage play. Different iterations of the same tale, where a guy and girl fall in love without knowing it. Ephron apparently loved the “She Loves Me” play so much that she teamed up with her sister to make a new adaptation; one involving this new-fangled internet messaging.
Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have well proved their worth as an on-screen couple. They’re the glue that holds this film together, and do a heck of a good job falling in love while being enemies at the same time. The juxtaposition of their real life and online communication is an interesting facet of the feature, one that is filled with great humor and memorable moments (“what’s with men and ‘The Godfather’?”). Watching it all unfold makes for solid entertainment, especially when you lump in some fun supporting cast members (Kinnear, Zahn, and Chappelle to name a few).
Quite possibly my favorite aspect of this movie is its setting. Late 90’s New York City. This was produced the year I was born, and looking at how much we’ve progressed in twenty-three years (from fax machines to smartphones) is astonishing. Really, “You’ve Got Mail” is a time capsule. A beautifully shot time capsule that carries us through just about all the seasons, from Fall to Spring. And I believe that it’s only become a better story to watch unfold as time passes.
Obviously, we all know where it is headed, but that doesn’t matter. What makes this worth seeing is the chemistry and gimmick, leading up to a finale that’ll make your heart swell (that’s if you’re into the romance sorta stuff). I’ll admit that it isn’t Ephron’s best piece. While it has its observations on the internet, Starbucks, and all the like, there isn’t as much to chew on as some of her other stuff (particularly “When Harry Met Sally…”). It’s a lighter film that’s more of a brisk walk than an envigorating jog. The main stakes reside in the battling of the stores, with not much else being consequential. But, it must be said that the internal conflict within both Kathleen Kelly (Ryan) and Joe Fox (Hanks) is an engaging one. What they desire in life and how they (sorta) indirectly help each other makes this movie shine.
“You’ve Got Mail” won’t be on everyone’s top rom-com list. It doesn’t really compete to be placed, but if you have not seen it (and enjoy watching romantic comedies), I would recommend it to you. At the very least, you will be tickled by the concept, and enjoy the chemistry shared by Hanks and Ryan. I would say that it is a guilty pleasure for me (as you could tell by the score I give it), but I think it does enough to be viewed as a fine piece of romance cinema. The New York City setting is beautiful (as always), the music/score is stupendous, and the dialogue is fun. Ephron knows how to check the boxes, even when the list doesn’t amount to the most legendary of features. FINAL SCORE: 86%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: