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You've Got Mail is a 1998 American romantic comedy-drama film starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, directed by Nora Ephron, and co-written by Nora and Delia Ephron, inspired by the play Parfumerie by Miklós László. The film is about two people in an online romance who are unaware that they are also business rivals. It marks the third coupling of Hanks and Ryan, who had previously appeared together in Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993).

You've Got Mail
You've Got Mail.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Nora Ephron
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based on Parfumerie
by Miklós László
Music by George Fenton
Cinematography John Lindley
Edited by Richard Marks
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • December 18, 1998 (1998-12-18)
Running time
119 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $65 million[2]
Box office $250.8 million[2]

You've Got Mail received mildly positive reviews from critics.



Kathleen Kelly is involved with Frank Navasky, a leftist newspaper writer for The New York Observer who is always in search of an opportunity to root for the underdog. While Frank is devoted to his typewriter, Kathleen prefers her laptop and logging into her AOL email account. Using the screen name "Shopgirl", she reads an email from "NY152", the screen name of Joe Fox, whom she first met in a chatroom known as Over 30. As her voice narrates her reading of the email, she reveals the boundaries of their online relationship: no specifics, including no names, career or class information, or family connections.

Joe belongs to the Fox Family that runs Fox Books, a chain of mega bookstores. Kathleen runs the independent bookstore called The Shop Around the Corner that her mother ran before her. The two are shown passing each other on their respective ways to work, revealing that they frequent the same neighborhoods in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Joe arrives at work, overseeing the opening of a new Fox Books in New York City with the help of his best friend, branch manager Kevin. Kathleen and her three store assistants, Christina, George and Aunt Birdie, open up her small shop that morning.

Following a day with his 11-year-old aunt Annabel and his 4-year-old half-brother Matthew, Joe enters Kathleen's store to let his younger relatives experience story time. Joe and Kathleen have a conversation that reveals Kathleen's fears about the Fox Books branch opening around the corner. He omits his last name and makes an abrupt exit with the children before she could discover who he is. At a publishing party for New York book business people later that week, Joe and Kathleen meet again where Kathleen discovers Joe's true identity. She accuses him of deception and spying, while he responds by belittling her store. They begin to publicly avoid each other while they unknowingly continue to see each other online.

The Shop Around the Corner slowly goes under following Fox Books' success. On her shop's last night in business, Kathleen enters Fox Books to discover the store is friendly and relaxed, yet without the same dedication to or knowledge of children's books as her shop. Her employees move on: Christina goes job hunting, George gets a job at the children's department at the Fox Books store, and Birdie retires.

When the two finally decide to meet, Joe discovers that his online correspondence is Kathleen. He initially decides not to meet her, but ultimately joins her without revealing his online identity, leading them to clash once more. Joe later resumes their correspondence as NY152, apologizes, and promises to eventually tell her why "he stood her up".

After both break up with their significant others, Joe realizes his feelings towards Kathleen after a conversation with his father and begins building a face-to-face relationship with her, still keeping his online identity a secret. He arranges a meeting between her and NY152, but just before she is about to meet the latter, he reveals his feelings for her. Confused with her feelings for Joe, Kathleen decides to go anyway. Upon arriving at the meeting place, she realizes that Joe and NY152 are the same person when he called for his pet dog Brinkley, whose name he initially revealed online, and she admits that she "wanted it to be him".




You've Got Mail is based on the 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklós László and its adaptations.[3] Parfumerie was later remade as The Shop Around the Corner, a 1940 film by Ernst Lubitsch, which in 1949 was adapted as a movie musical, In the Good Old Summertime by Robert Z. Leonard starring Judy Garland, and finally in 1963 as a Broadway musical with She Loves Me by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (composer and lyricist, respectively, of Fiddler on the Roof). You've Got Mail updates that concept with the use of e-mail, and the lead character's workplace is named "The Shop Around the Corner" as a nod to the 1940 film.[4] Influences from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice can also be seen in the relationship between Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly—a reference pointed out by these characters actually discussing Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet in the film. The joke when Tom Hanks explains that the little girl is really his aunt is taken from Israel Zangwill's story "A New Matrimonial Relation" in The Bachelors' Club (1891).[5]


Principal photography took place primarily in New York City's Upper West Side.[4][6]

Delia Ephron, recalling the film's bookstore setting, said, "Once we decided that she would be an independent-bookstore owner, the reason we made it a children's bookstore is, I think, we always tried to make movies as personal as we could. To find the thing in it that was personal. And we grew up loving children's books more than anything."[6] Nora Ephron similarly remarked in the film's audio commentary, "This was something that was very important to us—that there be first editions of old children's books. It's part of what make this a serious bookstore. We wanted to sell the idea that this was a place that really cared about the history of children's literature."[6] Additionally, Ephron had Ryan and Burns work in an actual bookstore for a week prior to filming in order to get them into character.[7]

Michael Palin appeared in several scenes that were cut from the film.[8]


A soundtrack was released on December 1, 1998, and featured a mixture of classics from the 1950s and 1970s, particularly the work of Harry Nilsson, as well as new original recordings and covers.[9] The score to the film was written by the English composer George Fenton.[10]


Box officeEdit

You've Got Mail debuted No. 1 at the North American box office, earning $18.4 million over its opening weekend.[11] It ultimately grossed $115,821,495 from the domestic market and $135,000,000 from foreign markets for a worldwide total of $250,821,495.[2]

Critical responseEdit

You've Got Mail received mildly positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a "Fresh" rating of 69% based on 83 reviews, with the critical consensus, "Great chemistry between the leads made this a warm and charming delight."[12] Metacritic gives a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[13]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three-out-of-four stars and lauded the "immensely lovable" main characters.[14] Janet Maslin of The New York Times also praised the film, writing of the leads, "Ms. Ryan plays her role blithely and credibly this time, with an air of freshness, a minimum of cute fidgeting and a lot of fond chemistry with Mr. Hanks. And he continues to amaze. Once again, he fully inhabits a new role without any obvious actorly behavior, to the point where comparisons to James Stewart (...) really cannot be avoided."[15] Lael Loewenstein of Variety similarly called it a "winning romantic comedy" and praised the chemistry between Hanks and Ryan, writing, "they show why they are two of Hollywood's most bankable and, in many ways, most traditional stars."[16] James Berardinelli further remarked:

You've Got Mail has the virtue of delivering exactly what's expected from it. It's a feel-good movie that offers enough comedy and romance to warm the heart without risking a sentimental overdose. Fans of Sleepless in Seattle will almost certainly fall in love with the similar-yet-different nature of the production; only die-hard cynics will be turned off by all of the unabashed good will. If there are messages to be found here, they're that romance is still thriving in our technological era, and that well-written romantic comedies starring Hanks and Ryan don't represent much of a gamble for the financing studio.[17]

Conversely, Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post criticized the film's use of product placement and its overly "adorable" characters, writing, "For some reason, this film made me feel like a Christmas goose being fattened for slaughter. Its force-fed diet of whimsy cloyed long before the eagerly anticipated romantic payoff arrived to put me out of my misery."[18] Rolling Stone later included You've Got Mail in their list of "Most Egregious Product Placements in Movie & TV History" for the film's frequent use of AOL trademarks.[19]


  1. ^ "You've Got Mail (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. January 11, 1999. Retrieved December 3, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c "You've Got Mail (1998)". Box Office Mojo. April 8, 1999. Retrieved March 20, 2011. 
  3. ^ Ng, David (November 27, 2013). "'Parfumerie,' a 1936 Hungarian play, is an overlooked inspiration". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b King, Susan (May 6, 1999). "With 'You've Got Mail,' You Get Lots of Other Goodies Too". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  5. ^ Falk, Lilian (March 14, 2018). "The Master: Reclaiming Zangwill's Only Künstlerroman". English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920. 44 (3): 275–296 – via Project MUSE. 
  6. ^ a b c Carlson, Erin (February 13, 2015). "You've Got Nora: A Valentine's Day Tribute to Nora Ephron". Vanity Fair. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  7. ^ Todd Van, Luling (May 19, 2015). "5 Things You Didn't Know About 'You've Got Mail'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  8. ^ Michael Palin's second volume of published diaries Halfway To Hollywood
  9. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. You've Got Mail at AllMusic
  10. ^ Clemmensen, Christian (April 1, 1999). "You've Got Mail soundtrack review". Retrieved October 14, 2015. 
  11. ^ King, Susan (December 22, 1998). "Weekend Box Office". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 10, 2011. 
  12. ^ "You've Got Mail (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  13. ^ "You've Got Mail reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 3, 2016. 
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 18, 1998). "You've Got Mail Movie Review (1998)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  15. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 18, 1998). "Film Review; hanks&". The New York Times. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  16. ^ Loewenstein, Lael (December 13, 1998). "Review: 'You've Got Mail'". Variety. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  17. ^ Berardinelli, James (1998). "You've Got Mail". ReelViews. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  18. ^ O'Sullivan, Michael (December 18, 1998). "'Mail': Pushing Your Buttons". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  19. ^ Kroll, Katy (June 4, 2013). "The Most Egregious Product Placements in Movie & TV History". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 

External linksEdit