You’ve Got Mail (1998) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

You’ve Got Mail serves as a fascinating time capsule. It’s also one of the most cynically hypocritical films of the late 1990’s. It’s a tale about big bad corporations taking over and pushing out the independent retailer. This irony is that this film was released by Warner Bros., itself a large conglomerate, seems to have been lost on audiences at the time, who made this weak picture a box-office smash. It’s equally fascinating as a cautionary tale. Here, is a movie about a Barnes & Nobles type store and an internet relationship. How would we know that in just a few years this burgeoning technology would overtake all brick and mortar bookstores?

Joe Foxx (Tom Hanks) runs the cities biggest bookstore, stocked with thousands of titles, and offering deep discounts on their large inventory. Meanwhile. Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) runs a local children’s bookshop that has survived for forty years. Her bouquet store is threatened when Fox opens one of its superstores down the block. This bit of professional entanglement spills over into Kathleen and Joe’s personal lives as the business rivals don’t realize they have been exchanging emails over the previous few months. By using screen names and not divulging their identities both Joe and Kathleen are falling in love with their cyber-partners, unaware that they are hated foes in reality.

The film’s misguided plot reveals that the main characters are having an emotional affair with one another. This bit of duplicities seems to have been overlooked because we are supposed to believe that Joe and Kathleen are destined to be with one another for no other reason than the plot requires it. Meg Ryan, who looks bored in her role, was nominated for Golden Globe for her ‘work’ on this picture. Must have been a slow year for the ‘Actress in a Comedy/Musical’ category that year. Hanks is at least game for the assignment and a few physical comedy bits remind that the Oscar winner was at one time a viable comedic screen presence. The only enjoyment to be had from this docile romantic comedy is in hearing those three little words: You’ve Got Mail.

Director: Nora Ephron
Stars: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Dave Chappelle

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