Love at First Byte
"You've Got Mail" is a thoroughly decent attempt to make a modern romantic comedy aimed primarily at the thirty-something plus audience who desire to be entertained with a delightful romantic tale, enhanced by gentle humour, similar to the way in which the classics such as "An Affair To Remember" enthralled cinema goers in years gone by. What is very impressive about "You've Got Mail" is that it tries its hardest to make the movie as realistic as possible, whilst also keeping a touch of a fairy tale fantasy about it. From the use of email as a form of communication, to the modern day threat of mega-stores destroying the more traditional shop, the movie really is influenced by many elements of every day life.
Joe Fox (Tom Hanks - Saving Private Ryan) one of the owners of Fox Books, a chain of mega bookshops, is about to open his latest mega-store and destroy all competitors who stand in his way, including Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan - City of Angels) the owner of the quaint children's bookshop The Shop around the Corner. But unbeknown to each of them, they are best of friends online, chatting anonymously across the internet and helping each other out, to the extent that despite both being in relationships they are falling in love with each other.
The plot to "You've Got Mail" is actually a reworking of an earlier; 1940's movie called "The Shop Around The Corner" but has been reworked to encompass everything about modern life. Whilst many modern romantic-comedies take the tried and tested route of man meets woman, things go wrong and lo and behold they get back together, "You've Got Mail" takes a different, a more intelligent route which is a refreshing change to the aforementioned plot line. Yes we have the two main leads being a man and woman, but the movie works on the cunning plotline that although they are best of friends online, they are bitter enemies in the real world. Of course this relies heavily on the modern trend of email as a form on verbal communication, and I remember when "You've Got Mail" came out that the idea that two people could meet and fall in love with each other over the internet being scoffed at as being ridiculous, but since then this is now a common place occurrence.
One of the charming elements of this internet romance is the slow build up, from being just online buddies, and then the feeling that maybe there is something more between them, giving this romantic tale a good sense of realism. Interestingly, the fact that the two romantic leads are already in relationships adds to the movie as we learn that neither of them are overly happily with their current circumstances. The other interesting side of the movie for me is the way it depicts the bigger mega stores destroying the small business man, and whilst "You've Got Mail" never overly focuses on where they stand on this issue it is enjoyable to see that they used such a current issue.
Of course "You've Got Mail" is not all about being realistic and with all good romantic-comedies it has a certain fantasy, fairytale feel to it which gives it a sugar coated charm, and to be honest at times it does come over a being very sickly sweet. As well as being sickly sweet it also suffers from the occasional lapse into cheesiness especially the initial meeting between Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox, but for the most the movie controls these negative elements to perfection. One of the best things for me about "You've Got Mail" is the style of humour, as it is what I would call classic comedy rather than in your face predictable jokes. Not once did it feel like a piece of humour had been planted in the movie just for the sake of getting a smile from the audience, but more to do with making a situation feel lighter and funnier. It certainly does its job and breaks up the film beautifully.
I suppose after the phenomenal success of "Sleepless in Seattle" it was only a matter of time before the pairing of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan would reunite alongside director Nora Ephron to try and recreate the magic which made "Sleepless in Seattle" such a hit. Personally I think maybe they should have got different actors to star in this movie, as every time I watch it I can't but help compare everything about "You've Got Mail" to "Sleepless in Seattle". That is not to say they do a bad job, in fact the pairing works exceptionally well, but the fact that we have seen them in this sort of movie before detracts slightly from the viewing enjoyment.
In what is a slight change to the usual character that Tom Hanks plays, he takes on the part of Joe Fox, a ruthless business man who is content on destroying the small business man for his own financial gain. To be honest the character is not as nasty as you think, and this is mainly because we see the softer, more caring side of the character when he is helping Kathleen via email. As always, Hanks does a stellar job of creating this character and despite having this somewhat nasty side you can't but help like him. One very noticeable thing about Hanks's performance is that it reminded me of the great Jimmy Stewart in every way, which for me made it even more enjoyable.
Whilst Hanks gets to play a different sort of character, Meg Ryan seems to have been typecast in the slightly dizzy female lead. Not that I'm complaining as she plays this sort of character to perfection and you really can't but help fall in love with her. One of the biggest problems for me when it comes to this film and in particular the casting is that Ryan and Hanks are very prominent actors and the whole time it felt like I was watching them perform rather than really become the characters. The film also isn't helped that the majority of screen time is dedicated to just these two, and all the supporting cast rarely get to show that they are actors in their own rights.
What this all boils down to is that for me "You've Got Mail" is an admirable attempt to make a modern romantic comedy for the thirty plus audience, but which harks back to the timeless classics from the golden era of cinema. The plot is very relevant to modern day life, which when paired up with two of Hollywood's most popular performers makes for an overall enjoyable viewing experience. It may not be as good as "Sleepless in Seattle" but it is still highly watch able and will leave you with a cute fuzzy feeling by the climax.