With the charming Sleepless In Seattle, writer/director Nora
Ephron successfully remade the '40's tear jerker An Affair To
Remember, as a vehicle for Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Ephron attempts to
recapture much of that same magic with this pleasant enough remake of
Ernst Lubitsch's 1940 comedy The Shop Around The Corner. Based on
Nikolaus Laszlo's play Parfumerie, the film has previously been
remade, as In The Good Old Summertime, with Judy Garland.
Ephron's contemporary take on this classic tale of two shop
assistants who turn out to be pen pals updates the plot for the
computer literate '90's. In You've Got Mail, Ephron uses the
possibilities of the internet as its central plot device. This
sleepless in cyberspace explores how two people who regularly
communicate over the net can actually live close by and pass each
other in the street without ever knowing it. The catch here is that
the two people who enjoy a cosy e-mail romance by night are actually
business rivals by day. Eventually romance blossoms between the pair
as they realise that they actually have quite a lot in common.
Hanks plays Joe Fox, an entrepreneurial book dealer who runs a
chain of bookstores. His latest superstore opens in New York, a block
away from the small book shop, quaintly known as The Shop Around The
Corner, and threatens to close this 42 year old family business. Joe
frequently clashes with the shop's owner Kathleen Kelly (Ryan).
While rivals in business, Joe and Kathleen are already
secretly correspondents, who share a sort of intimacy through their
nightly communications in an Internet chat room. He is known as
NY152, while she calls herself Shopgirl. They share many of their
personal secrets and details of their daily lives. But it is only
when Joe helps her with her business problems that the anonymity
begins to break down, and their relationship becomes more personal.
Joe has to somehow break down Kathleen's resistance before he can tell
her the truth.
Within the context of the romantic comedy, Ephron also
addresses the changing face of our society, and the clash between the
old ways of doing business and the modern way of life. Kathleen's
boyfriend Frank (played with ease and charm by Greg Kinnear) is a
journalist who rails against technology and the corporatisation of
America from his old fashioned typewriter. The script, co-written by
Ephron and her sister Delia, contains some nice one liners, and the
sparkling dialogue is delivered with verve by an attractive cast.
There is plenty of chemistry between the two charismatic
stars, teamed together for the third time. Their easy going rapport
and laid back charm should ensure that this lesser effort is,
nonetheless, a huge hit over the Christmas holiday season. Ryan is
vivacious and perky, and delivers her usual delightful performance.
Hanks is solid, but somehow is not as convincing as the hard hearted
businessman who discovers his humanity. The supporting cast consists
of indie regulars Parker Posey and Steve Zahn, and their ensemble
performances add to the material's broad appeal. You've Got Mail is
innocuous enough and quite enjoyable for the most part. The main
problem with this light weight film is that it is overlong, and
eventually outstays its welcome. There is a sense of unnecessary
padding, and the second half of the film becomes a little tiresome as
it limps towards its predictable conclusion. Nonetheless, You've Got
Mail is not without appeal, and this delightful, feel good, but
occasionally saccharine romantic comedy will undoubtedly please fans
of the genre.
Copyright © 1998 Greg King