You've Got Mail

Online dating -
consumerism -
Nostalgia
You’ve Got Mail still enchants after two decades
Director
Nora Ephron
Screenwriter
Nora Ephron,
Delia Ephron
Cast
Meg Ryan,
Tom Hanks,
Greg Kinnear,
Parker Posey,
Dave Chappelle,
Heather Burns,
Steve Zahn
Rating
PG
Run time
119 minutes
Studio
Warner Bros.
Distribution Date
Dec 19, 1998
Awards
Meg Ryan for Favorite Actress: Comedy/Romance – Blockbuster Entertainment Awards (1999), Film Music Award – BMI Film & TV Awards (1999), Bogey Award in Silver – Bogey Awards, Germany (1999), Golden Screen Winner – Golden Screen, Germany (1999)

From: Brooklyngirl147
To: Unionjack

Dear Friend,

I knew re-watching You’ve Got Mail with you was going to be a good idea, but I confess I didn’t realize HOW GREAT of an idea it was. After all, it’s been so many years since either of us watched it. How were we to remember what a delightful, hilarious, charming, and even bitingly sharp gem of a movie this was?? 

Growing up, my sister and I watched and rewound the family VHS so many times that the tracking and skipping made the tape physically unwatchable by circa 2006. We found the most irresistible laughter (and sniffles!) in the unlikely romance between second-generation children’s bookstore owner Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan, Kate & Leopold) and shrewd businessman Joe Fox (Tom Hanks, The Post). 

I love that the twist on this rival-booksellers-fall-in-love story feels simultaneously adorable/nostalgic but also real and vivid. People have been meeting online for decades now, but there’s something heartwarmingly #vintage about watching them dial up onto AOL to anonymously woo each other’s hearts with daily emails about the weather and their feelings. And it stills feels relevant somehow. We’re in the era of Tinder and Twitter now, but it’s still nerve-wracking to put yourself out there, or to wonder if the person you love online is just as great IRL. 

Tell me. What do YOU think are the best parts of this movie?

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From: Unionjack
To: Brooklyngirl147

Dear Friend,

As always, we are on the same page.

I, too, have great memories of watching this movie and also underestimated just how good it is. 

I really appreciate how many layers this movie has. It doesn’t just offer a charming window into the dynamics of early online dating, and all the fantasies, imposed expectations, and funny computer sounds involved. It also takes on issues of class, gentrification, the preservation of culture in a consumerist economy, as well as how economic circumstances intimately impact personal lives. 

I thought about how Kathleen and her crew truly feel that their upper west side neighborhood is under attack when Joe’s Barnes-and-Noble-esque “Fox Books” rolls into town. Remember when discount superstores started to replace the tiny neighborhood bookshops? (And all this is before Amazon...but I digress.) Their real-life bitter business rivalry threatens not only any future relationship they might grow into, but Kathleen’s very livelihood.

“It’s not personal, it’s business,” Joe tells Kathleen, both online and to her face.

“What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that,” she contests. “All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me.”

Kathleen Kelly’s The Shop Around the Corner is not just a business, but a cultural institution. And for her, it’s a home with fond memories. 

It’s this note of the personal that rings loudest in the film. In our day and age, you’d expect it to be a more political movie. But instead, it zones in on the personal and touches on how socio-political changes affect real people’s lives.

I could say more. But I’d like to hear more of your thoughts on the movie.

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From: Brooklyngirl147
To: Unionjack

Dear Friend,

That’s some poignant insight. (To nobody’s surprise!)

You perfectly capture the movie’s surprising depth and just how relevant it still feels, even 20 years later! And – like any truly great movie – it’s not just nostalgia or deep themes that keep bringing us back to it. It’s everything! 

It’s how we couldn’t help smiling at the soundtrack (featuring the likes of The Cranberries and Randy Newman). It’s how we were kept in stitches by the supporting cast members, like Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine), Parker Posey (Columbus), Dave Chappelle (A Star is Born), and Heather Burns (Miss Congeniality). It’s the zingers (one of the most powerful of which you quoted above) that had us shouting in agreement, weeping like children, or laughing so hard that we had to pause and rewind.

It’s honestly hard to find a flaw. Dare I call it a perfect movie? Better than the movie it was inspired by, The Shop Around the Corner from 1940? The ultimate Thanksgiving or Christmas flick to watch with family? The brightest jewel in writer/director Nora Ephron’s magnificent crown? 

Oh yeah. I dare. Even if that makes me “a lone reed.”

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From: Unionjack
To: Brooklyngirl147

So quotable. I’m glad we finally made time to watch it. 

What’s next on our nostalgia bucket list?

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From: Brooklyngirl147
To: Unionjack

Four words: The Princess Diaries, OBVIOUSLYYYY.

About the Contributor

Debbie reviews films & books for Narrative Muse as part of her freelance hustle in Brooklyn, New York. She loves film critique, creativity, advocating for kindness, Mexican food, yoga, GIFs, getting rush tickets for Broadway shows, and reading on the Subway.

Jack Holloway is a writer and musician living in Brooklyn, New York. While he spends most of his time engaging heady texts, he likes to read across genres, and he is a movie-lover, with a particular affinity for old, indie, and foreign films. Beyond movies and books, you could talk to Jack about the year’s best music, different kinds of beer, or even baking!