You've Got Mail
You've Got Mail is a 1998 American romantic comedy 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|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Nora Ephron|
by Miklós László
|Music by||George Fenton|
|Edited by||Richard Marks|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$250.8 million|
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 an "over-30s" chatroom. As her voice narrates her reading of the email, she reveals the boundaries of the 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 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, George, Aunt Birdie, and Christina, open up her small shop that morning.
Following a day with his 11-year-old aunt Annabel and 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 store opening around the corner. He omits his last name and makes an abrupt exit with the children. 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.
The Shop Around the Corner slowly goes under. 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 with whom he has been corresponding. At first he decides not to meet her, but then joins her without revealing his on-line identity, leading them to clash once more. Joe later resumes the correspondence, 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 and begins building a face-to-face relationship, still keeping his on-line identity a secret. He arranges a meeting between his on-line persona and her, but just before she is to meet her on-line friend, Joe reveals his feelings for her. Upon arriving at the meeting place, she hears Fox, and sees that her on-line friend is in fact Joe. Kathleen cries tears of joy and reveals that she hoped it would be him.
- Tom Hanks as Joe Fox
- Meg Ryan as Kathleen Kelly
- Parker Posey as Patricia Eden
- Jean Stapleton as Birdie Conrad
- Greg Kinnear as Frank Navasky
- Steve Zahn as George Pappas
- Heather Burns as Christina Plutzker
- Dave Chappelle as Kevin Jackson
- Dabney Coleman as Nelson Fox
- John Randolph as Schuyler Fox
- Deborah Rush as Veronica Grant
- Hallee Hirsh as Annabel Fox
- Jeffrey Scaperrotta as Matthew Fox
- Cara Seymour as Gillian Quinn
- Sara Ramirez as Rose, Zabar's cashier
- Michael Badalucco as Charlie
You've Got Mail is based on the 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklós László and its adaptations. 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 Van Johnson 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. 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).
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." 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 [sic] 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." Additionally, Ephron had Ryan and Burns work in an actual bookstore for a week prior to filming in order to get them into character.
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. The score to the film was written by the English composer George Fenton.
You've Got Mail debuted No. 1 at the North American box office, earning $18.4 million over its opening weekend. 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.
You've Got Mail received mildly positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a "Fresh" rating of 69% based on 85 reviews, with an average rating of 6.23/10. The critical consensus reads, "Great chemistry between the leads made this a warm and charming delight." Metacritic gives a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three-out-of-four stars and lauded the "immensely lovable" main characters. 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." 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." 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.
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." 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.
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- O'Sullivan, Michael (December 18, 1998). "'Mail': Pushing Your Buttons". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
- Kroll, Katy (June 4, 2013). "The Most Egregious Product Placements in Movie & TV History". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 13, 2015.