Director: Nora Ephron
Stars: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Greg Kinnear
Oh, the ‘90s. A time of Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan and an internet connection that came through the phone line. That’s right, kids: dial-up.
The draw of Ryan and Nora Ephron, with whom he’d teamed up for 1993’s Sleepless in Seattle, was obviously strong enough to bring Hanks back to a light-hearted role following more serious award-winning performances in Philadelphia, Forrest Gump and Apollo 13 in the meantime. You’ve Got Mail is a movie I saw for the first time about a year ago, and had no apprehensions regarding watching it again.
Despite this film and its very apprehensive handling of the internet coming across as overwhelmingly (and delightfully) ‘90s (E-mail? What kind of loser uses that?), it’s actually an interpretation of Miklós László’s 1937 play Parfumerie, which was adapted twice previously in the ‘40s, combined with a number of elements from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (which itself features significantly in the plot).
Ryan stars as Kathleen Kelly, the owner of “The Shop Around the Corner”, a small, independent book shop in New York City. Although in a relationship with neurotic journalist Frank (Kinnear), Kathleen is in daily correspondence with a mystery man via that internet thing (because it’s apparently not cheating if you don’t know their name). Meanwhile, Joe Fox (Hanks) is an executive of Fox Books, a giant bookstore chain about to open a new outlet just around the corner from The Shop Around the Corner. Romantically attached to a fellow executive, Fox is similarly engaged in online intimacy with a girl, about whom he knows nothing. You can probably see where this is going. Kathleen and Joe enter a feud in real life while inadvertently advising each other online on how to deal with their respective rivals in person. They soon agree to meet up, but when Fox discovers the identity of his confidant he stands her up, instantly changing their relationship from one of intimacy to deception and manipulation. He uses his new found position of power to get to know the real Kathleen, naturally leading up to the ultimate reveal in the hope that he has done enough to win her over.
It’s a highly enjoyable film, as Ephron’s offerings tend to be. The famous relationship between Hanks and Ryan, in its third and final cinematic outing, is as warm as ever even though the two characters have been put in a position where they’re obliged to hate each other. The relationship between the two makes the movie, but it’s also very well written both in terms of story and adaptation.
I’m a big Tom Hanks fan, and so while this isn’t exactly one of my favourites of his, that’s no real criticism. It’s also interesting for me to notice that You’ve Got Mail basically seems to mark the end of Meg Ryan’s peak, while Hanks has of course continued to impress (although perhaps never quite living up to the standards of his golden decade).
Overall of course this film was hardly groundbreaking, but nobody ever suggested it was meant to be. It’s a sweet, funny film about two people who are probably destined for each other if only they can stop the world getting in the way. This is a tried and tested formula, and when you add the personnel we’re blessed with here then success is inevitable.
My rating: 7.5/10