You've Got Mail

on December 18, 1998 by Christine James
   Back in 1940, the filmmakers of "You've Got Mail's" progenitor, "Shop Around the Corner," couldn't have known that their romantic comedy's premise, in which two penpals fall in love without knowing each other's identity, would become one of the primary forms of courting and social interaction nearly six decades later. Through e-mail, thousands of people connect, literally and figuratively, every day; whether their electronic relationships could survive in the real world is a question that usually goes unanswered due to geographic distance, previous romantic entanglements or just plain cold feet.
   But screen names NY152 and Shopgirl, who have been enjoying the safety of anonymity in their increasingly affectionate and contemplative exchanges, are about to meet--to neither of their knowledge, and not under the best of circumstances. NY152 is Joe Fox (Tom Hanks), heir to and a top executive in Fox Books, a giant chain building a new megastore in New York--just around the corner from Kathleen Kelly (Shopgirl)'s small but beloved children's book shop. The two almost instantly lock horns, then complain about the confrontations to their online confidantes, not realizing they're both talking to the nemesis in question.
   While Hanks and Ryan certainly have chemistry, as demonstrated in the swooning smash "Sleepless in Seattle" (also directed and co-scripted by Nora Ephron), the problem here is an imbalance of power. Joe seems to be, professionally and emotionally, in the driver's seat, while Kathleen is too often an easily-frazzled victim, despite her plentiful spunk. Still, Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron's screenplay is adequately warm and funny, and the characters sufficiently charming, to draw audiences in to the unlikely but ultimately engaging love affair. Starring Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks, Greg Kinnear and Parker Posey. Directed by Nora Ephron. Written by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron. Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Nora Ephron. A Warner release. Romantic comedy. Rated PG for some language. Running time: 119 min
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