"You've Got Mail" Review
© 1998 Fontaine L.
- spoilers -

"Effffff. Ooooh. Ecccckks."

Another misleading theatrical trailor led me to believe that this film would primarily be about the two main character's courtship via the internet (in hindsight, that would make for a very boring movie indeed), with them finally meeting each other during the last five minutes of the movie. Meeting as in finally revealing their identities to each other. Tom Hanks's Joe Fox finding out that his online love is his real life rival so early was as shocking to me as "Psycho's" Marion Crane dying 20 minutes or so into the movie was shocking for audiences in the 50's. Well, maybe I exaggerate, but to me this is where "You've Got Mail" worked. With clever writing, the Ephron sisters shrewdly avoided having the movie turn into just another "Sleepless In Seattle" clone. This way, Joe gets a chance to find out another side of Kathleen Kelly's (Meg Ryan's) persona that she does not reveal in cyberspace. If he hadn't known the "shopgirl" side of Kathleen, Joe would not have understood that Kathleen's biting words were just an effort of defiance; if Joe's "NY152" alter-ego hadn't found out that Kathleen IRL (In Real Life, in cyberspeak ) was such a charming, funny woman, he might never have fallen in love with her completely. Another bonus is that we get acquainted with two sides of Joe Fox. On one side we get the ruthless millionaire who sees everyone and everything as competition, who will stop at nothing to destroy his enemies; when we sit down with Joe at the computer, we see someone trapped in a hopeless relationship, someone who is sympathetic to the underdog. One side he's flippant, reckless; on the other he's honest, serious. As much as we would like to hate Joe Fox for his lack of mercy, as hard as it may be to reconcile his two personalities, we have to: I do, since I too have a side of myself that I despise. This movie demonstrates the best possible outcome of an internet romance -- when you know someone inside and out.

"You've Got Mail" is merry, seasonal, spiced up with a jazzy soundtrack that puts you at once in a romantic mood. Albeit slow at times and filled with sidetrackers (for example, I had not expected them to delve so much into Kathleen's faltering business; I have no complaints, though, since one of my favorite scenes from the movie stems from this storyline - the memory sequence of Kathleen dancing with her mother in the store. Amazing score here), the film is satisfying. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan get my vote as the cutest couple of the year, and though both are wonderful in their roles, I'd have to say Tom wins my heart with his funny mannerisms and expressions. This guy does deserve two academy awards (and another one coming next year?). I also enjoyed Parker Posey and Greg Kinnear's wickedly annoying performances as the ex-girlfriend and ex-boyfriend. With a whimsical script and a playful score, "You've Got Mail" is the Very Hollywood feel-good answer to all the cynicism we see in our country right now.

"I am a lone reed."

Rating: B (First viewing, 12/18/98)

* Kudos for the lovely opening sequence. The dark colors created a lonely, impersonal atmosphere; yet cyberspace never looked so amiable.