Comedy / Romance
(US); 1998; Rated PG; 119 Minutes
Tom Hanks: Joe Fox
Meg Ryan: Kathleen Kelly
Parker Posey: Patricia Eden
Greg Kinnear: Frank Navasky
Jean Stapleton: Birdie
Produced by G. Mac Brown, Dianne Dreyer, Julie Durk,
Delia Ephron, Nora Ephron, Donald J. Lee Jr. and Lauren
Shuler-Donner; Directed by Nora Ephron; Screenwritten
by Samson Raphaelson, Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron
by DAVID KEYES
and love are as complex as the Internet. Or so we're told,
at least, by Nora Ephron's cheerful and ambitious "You've
Got Mail." And what's even more complex is the situation
displayed competently in the movie; we meet two lonely book
store managers named Joe and Kathleen, played by Tom Hanks
and Meg Ryan, who are essentially fascinated with the anonymous
relationship they have online, but are unaware that they
have a not-so-decent relationship in life. It's the kind
of lighthearted situation that allows the main characters
to interact together in several different ways without feeling
obvious or predictable. Online, they are like hopeless romantics,
desperate for attention. In life, they're like George and
Gracy Burns, Lucy and Ricki Ricardo, or Archie and Edith
Bunker. Either way, they're prominently made for each other.
In order for them to find out the truth, they have to accept
the plot situations just like we do.
there's something very wrong with this movie, and I can't
quite figure out what it is. All the necessary things to
make a good heartwarming comedy are intact (the couple,
the characters, the chemistry, the Internet, and the book
stores, just to mention a few), and yet nothing works quite
right. You'd expect a few good laughs to emerge if you put
Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks up on the screen (like in "Sleepless
In Seattle,"), but what you get here is a couple of measly
smiles, and that's it. It certainly has its moments, but
seldom do they occur with rhythm, or amusement. The film
has no pace to successfully incorporate the humor, and that's
a problem, a distraction from the story, which on its own
is remarkably likable and amusing.
prominently due to Hanks and Ryan, whose work together on
"Sleepless And Seattle" and this movie define them as the
perfect Hollywood romantic movie couple. In both movies,
two different relationships develop between the same characters
without their realization of the other. In both movies,
the characters are portrayed so charmingly that they make
the age-old script seem refreshed and lavish. But we still
know it's kinda artificial. The film has no seriousness
or impact to the heart or the funny bone. You are definitely
charmed by the screen presences, but is that enough to save
the script from being absolutely enjoyable? It sure seems
like it, but is assuredly isn't.
Hanks stars as Joe Fox, a major bookstore owner whose new
shop on the opposite corner of a children's book store heats
up a battle between he and the other store manager, Kathleen
Kelly (Meg Ryan). They treat each other like two competing
factions in a Saturday morning cartoon: he's like Eboneizer
Scrooge and she's like an innocent bystander in his game
of greed. Her bookstore creates all the complementary notions
that we see in commercials; all the characters know the
books, know the customers, know what to recommend, and know
how to keep the smiles on their faces.
at Fox books, Joe sees the whole operation as merely a situation
to make profit in a hurry. Everyone reads, yes, and everyone
will have that reoccurring urge to go out there and buy
a book. If you have a place kept organized like this, you'll
wind up spending your money there without even thinking.
movie is constructed with what you call an 'idiot plot'
(not slapstick), and due to its characters, the repetitive
notion that all romantic comedies are brainless seems to
feel false (sort of). What you have here are two brilliant
people in love with each other over the Internet, and around
them, a mass of minor people who are equally amusing. One
of the best performances in the whole movie comes from Jean
Stapleton, who portrays Birdie. When Kathleen tells her
about her encounter with this person over the web, she shares
her own experience with the online relationship, claiming
that once, when she tried having cyber-sex, the line was
busy. Here, in print, it doesn't sound that zany, but if
you see it you'll know what I mean.
it isn't enough. I neither laughed as hard or smiled as
much as I did with that moment, and so, although the film's
characters tip the scale to a positive direction, there's
this sappy sense of humor, or lack thereof. The more crucial
scenes near the closing, in which the script allows Fox
to learn that he is carrying on an online relationship with
a woman he hates, are so lacking in both tone and distinctive
tranquillity that you feel betrayed, or disappointed, as
if the script was over ambitious at this point and became
sidetracked with the pace. Revealing the truth to one person
without revealing it to the other is indeed a new plot twist
for the idiot romance, but apparently that kind of new direction
has its own side-effects.
of these complaints are minor, but they add up eventually.
There's no serious problem that would keep me from recommending
the movie, but if you want a more organized, more serious,
more humorous and more organic film, watch the similar "Sleepless
In Seattle." Both films were directed by Nora Ephron, and
she bluntly proves that if lightning indeed strikes in the
same place twice, it doesn't strike with much more impact
the second time.
1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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