YOU'VE GOT MAIL (1998) 

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Tom Hanks
Meg Ryan
Greg Kinnear
Parker Posey
Jean Stapleton
Steve Zahn
David Chappelle
Dabney Coleman

Nora Ephron



Time: 119 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Romantic Comedy

Nora Ephron manages to create another wonderful romance with YOU'VE GOT MAIL. It's not as consistently clever as WHEN HARRY MET SALLY – which she wrote – or as sentimental as SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, but it's intelligent, adult, funny when it needs to be and quietly romantic. YOU'VE GOT MAIL is a romantic comedy with restraint, which isn't always a bad thing.

To be sure Hanks and Ryan have their antic, physical moments, but they play normal people who become enemies, when they should be friends. Hanks plays Joe Fox the owner of the book superstore moving in right down the street from The Shop Around the Corner (the title of the film on which the story is based), Kathleen Kelly's (Ryan) childrens bookstore. Her store's been in business on the West Side of New York for over 40 years and Kathleen believes that the personal nature of her store will win out against the impersonal giant down the block. Unfortunately, she's wrong. She pours her heart out to her email friend who consoles her and gives her advice, telling her to "Fight. Fight to the death." Little does she know the same man urging her into battle is the one trying to put her out of business.

After really meeting Joe at a party – he was in her store but hid his identity – Kathleen can't seem to avoid him. Everywhere she goes he seems to pop up. What's worse is no matter how hard she tries, she just can't get business back to normal. She talks to the press, stages a rally, has friends picket Fox Books, even has her boyfriend (Greg Kinnear), a columnist for one of the local papers write a passionate piece about her store. Yet it's no use. She has to close her doors. She writes to her friend and asks to meet. He's her last hope. One guess who shows up instead. Joe Fox. Joe doesn't quite know what to think when he discovers that Kathleen is his email pal. He decides to stay and see if he can change her opinion of him, but it's no use. He's destroyed her life and she lets him know in unqualified terms how little she thinks of him.

"You can forgive this guy for standing you up, but you can't forgive me for this little thing... of putting you out of business?"

Kathleen is extremely disappointed that her friend didn't show, but bounces back when he continues to correspond with her. The rest of the film has Joe working both the angles: he realizes in order to get what he wants he must make Kathleen fall in love with him, not his email personality. They start to spend more and more time together, pretending they just "bumped" into each other. Then the big day comes, when Kathleen and her mystery man are supposed to meet...and when they do it's magic.

YOU'VE GOT MAIL is a wonderful movie with two great performances by Hanks and Ryan. Half due to their talent, and half due to the words on the page. Ephron creates two very real characters, giving us the chance to not only hear what they have to say, but to get into their minds and souls as well. I was wary of the whole "email" correspondence thing, but it's used in such a way that's not only clever, but essential in getting to know these people. They are able to be honest in a way only anonymity can allow.

Kathleen and Joe are two of the most multidimensional characters you're gonna find in this genre and that's what makes us wish for them to get together. These are people with ideas and feelings and that's truly what makes this film work. The supporting cast unfortunately doesn't have much to do in this film which is a real shame considering the talent involved. However, it is a love story so I guess I can cut Nora some slack. The audience is there to see the leads fall in love, and they aren't disappointed.

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