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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 Jerry Saravia
No Rating Supplied

I have always admired writer-director Nora Ephron's efforts, as mild as some were, such as "Heartburn" and "This is my Life." "Sleepless in Seattle" is one of her best, a sophisticated romantic comedy with allusions to old movie classics such as "An Affair to Remember" and "The Wild Bunch." It had the innate, likable pairing of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks and some delightful zingers courtesy of Rosie O'Donnell. The surprise is that "You've Got Mail" is even better - as romantically pure and cleverly funny as you can imagine, and Hanks and Ryan are back in roles they were born to play.

Hanks stars as the aggressive Joe Fox, the owner of a Borders-type bookstore called "Fox Books" where they serve cappuccinos and thousands of books for discount prices. His business is the type to put any real literary bookstore out of business, including "The Shop Around the Corner" - a children's bookstore run by Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan). Kathleen holds this precious commodity dearly to her heart, and it is practically around the corner from Fox Books. Distracting her from her business is her laptop computer, which she regularly uses to talk to an anonymous male friend through the wonders of e-mail. She has a regular rapport with this friend, and patiently waits for her beloved, a writer for The New York Observer (Greg Kinnear), to leave for work before she rattles around her computer. Only, she's not aware that her e-mail buddy is her competitor Joe Fox!

Of course, Joe is unaware of this himself, and regularly waits to go online until his girlfriend, a book editor (Parker Posey), leaves for work. The e-mails mount as they both write to each other, seeking help about their business prospects. And never shall the twain meet, though we constantly hope that they do.

Nora Ephron is the perfect writer for such lightweight nonsense, but I was surprised how sophisticated and clever the dialogue was. Joe's double entendres hit a 10 on the laughometer - the best scene is when he visits Kathleen's bookstore and tries to prevent his kids from saying "F-O-X". There are also the witticisms of supporting characters, such as Joe's philandering father (Dabney Coleman) and his philandering grandfather (John Randolph), who describes women as being "enchanting"; his loose, Chris Tucker-ish executive pal (Dave Chappelle); and Kathleen's old bookkeeper friend (Jean Stapleton), who remarks that her last boyfriend "ran Spain". These characters are so joyous and entertaining to watch that they are partly responsible for making "You've Got Mail" such a success.

Ephron has less success with Joe and Kathleen's better halves. Parker Posey, one of the ubiquitous queens of independent film, is given little to do and is too boring and insipid to inspire much interest - no wonder Joe is less than enthralled by her presence. This is partly true of Greg Kinnear's character, though he is given a little more leverage by Ephron and is allowed some sparkling zingers at a cocktail party scene with Posey.

Another mild flaw in "You've Got Mail" is the relentless number of oldies playing on the soundtrack - how many times do we need to hear "Rockin' Robin"? The only reason so many immaterial songs appear on the soundtrack is so that they can make more sales at record stores. Only the inclusion of Harry Nilsson's "Over the Rainbow" feels justified.

The center of "You've Got Mail" is the movie star combo of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, and they are as delightful and adorable a pairing as James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan were, or Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. Hanks is surefooted as he switches subtly from being charming and likable to mean and comically furious. Ryan is, for once, not too bubbly or cute and handles her comedic scenes with flair and good timing. Her last scene, where her eyes fill with understanding, hope and regret, is stunning to watch. Combine that with Ephron's crisp, often hilarious dialogue, and "You've Got Mail" makes for one of the best romantic comedies since "When Harry Met Sally."

Copyright 1998 Jerry Saravia

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