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You've Got Mail

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: You've Got Mail

Starring: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan
Director: Nora Ephron
Rated: PG
RunTime: 110 Minutes
Release Date: December 1998
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton, Dave Chappelle, Steve Zahn, Greg Kinnear, Dabney Coleman, John Randolph

Review by MrBrown
4 stars out of 4

Of all the delights to be had while watching the enchanting romantic comedy _You've_Got_Mail_, none gave me more joy than the performance of co-lead Meg Ryan. The reigning queen of romantic comedy, Ryan, not so surprisingly, delivers another turn of irresistible charm as bookstore owner Kathleen Kelly. But what I paid conscious attention to this time around was the ease with which she tackles the deceptively simple-looking job of romantic comedienne. It's no easy task to project a natural blend of sweetness, strength, wit, and genuine, hard-earned heart, yet Ryan has effortlessly pulled it off year after year, in movie after movie--without ever receiving her rightful recognition from the critics.

Sadly, _You've_Got_Mail_ will likely not change that, but that's mostly because so much of the film is so good. The film reunites Ryan with her _Sleepless_in_Seattle_ partners Tom Hanks and director/co-writer (with sister Delia) Nora Ephron in a plot that, not so coincidentally, appears to be a variation of that 1993 blockbuster. Ryan's Kathleen owns the small children's bookstore The Shop Around the Corner, whose long life as a Manhattan neighborhood staple is threatened by the nearby opening of a Barnes and Noble-like superstore called Fox Books, owned by wealthy Joe Fox (Hanks). Naturally, it's hate at first sight for Joe and Kathleen, but little do they know that appears to be their first meeting really isn't--they have anonymously been conducting a romance over the Internet as "NY152" (Joe) and "Shopgirl" (Kathleen).

Now, it would have been easy--and completely understandable--for the Ephrons to completely mirror _Sleepless_'s proven formula to the letter, but they manage to come up with some wrinkles that are often as unpredictable as they are funny. The biggest deviation from _Sleepless_ is the increased interaction of Hanks and Ryan, who spent most of their last collaboration apart--which called into question if the two truly had any chemistry. _Mail_ proves once and for all that Hanks and Ryan are a screen duo for the ages, equally convincing trading comic barbs or longing glances. Their sparring sessions have real bite, and their more mellow moments are so warmly tender that only the coldest hearts won't be at least slightly moved.

This isn't to say that the film doesn't make a concession to what has become the Ryan romantic comedy formula--namely, a man she is already attached to, here in the form of Greg Kinnear's politically-minded reporter Frank Navasky. The new rub here is that Frank, while a bit stuck on himself, is a nice guy and a much more appealing romantic choice than ruthless businessman Joe, who, in turn, already has a partner of his own: Patricia Eden (Parker Posey), who works at a publishing house. While the nice and perky Kathleen is clearly better than the ever-frantic Patricia, it is easy to see why Joe would be with her; her high social station makes for a "comfortable" choice, and it is in line with his hard-as-nails attitude--which, of course, hides the truly gentle soul that he bears only to "Shopgirl."

Similarly, Hanks does a bang-up job playing (to use Joe's term) a "pill," but he has a natural gentleness that he buries just deep enough and gradually brings to surface as the film progresses. Ephron has said that _Mail_'s central question is "Can Mr. Wrong turn out to be Mr. Right?" and that evolution is made involving and convincing by Hanks, who instead of making Joe's progression from black to white, makes it a more realistic shift between opposite shades of grey.

Again, though, _Mail_ is ultimately the glowing Ryan's show. Her Kathleen is fun and more than a little (hilariously) pathetic at times, but her flightiness is grounded in real, complex emotion. This is especially the case in one late shot of her face, which displays surprise, disgust, anger, and ecstatic, teary delight--all in a matter of seconds. If that's not a difficult acting task, I don't know what is--and it comes to Ryan as second nature.

Cynics will probably dismiss _You've_Got_Mail_ as disposable fluff for suckers for shamelessly romantic hokum. If that truly is the case--and, admittedly, there's no evidence to suggest otherwise--then I wear the title of "sucker" with pride.

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