Neighborhood bookstore rivals unwittingly become e-mail pen pals in this charming remake of The Shop Around the Corner.
When a big box bookstore moves into her NYC neighborhood, Kathleen Kelly, owner of locally-owned bookstore, The Shop Around the Corner, is ready to go to the mattresses against Joe Fox, the company’s CEO. They’re work rivals, but they’re also unknowingly sending one another messages under anonymous AOL screennames every day. Many people think this is the remake of Sleepless in Seattle, which also starred Ryan and Hanks, but it’s actually a remake of one of my OTHER all time favorite movies, The Shop Around the Corner, which is basically the same storyline only it’s set in a shop in Hungary at Christmas time and stars peak hotness Jimmy Stewart and you should all watch it immediately. (Unfortunately it’s not available to stream anywhere or I would’ve done a Stream It post on it already!)
Anyway, back to the movie at hand. You’ve Got Mail is a perfect romantic comedy, a Christmas movie that isn’t, filled to the brim with extremely dated 1990s technology that has aged very badly but also very charmingly, and Meg Ryan’s outfits which have aged both very well and very charmingly.
Meg Ryan as Kathleen Kelly
She is charming, she is adorkable, she is quirky, she is *does a quick Google search* oh dear god she was only two years older than me when this movie was made. Kathleen lived our collective teen dream life. She owned a bookstore in Manhattan. She went to literary industry parties. She wore opaque tights and timeless linen dresses and men’s pajama sets. She lived in a Nora Ephron apartment that was way too precious for a woman her age but you wanted to live in it anyway. And she had the perfect flippy haircut that you could never get your hair to do. She is maybe slightly less dimensional than Sally Hershberger, but she’s so freaking cute it doesn’t matter.
Tom Hanks as Joe Fox
Guys, I’m about to admit my biggest You’ve Got Mail hot take, so gird your loins: Joe Fox….kinda sucks. I mean, objectively, he is sort of a jerk! Like yes I love this movie but also yes Joe totally lies to and gaslights Kathleen for like half of it??? Not to mention the obvious fact that he puts her small, locally-owned store out of business. He’s a corporate CEO! He’s the Jeff Bezos of rom coms!
Okay, maybe he’s not that bad, but my point is, we *shouldn’t* like Joe Fox, but we do. And do you know why we do? Because he’s played by America’s male sweetheart, Tom Hanks. That’s the only reason. Every single person in this movie is incredible, the story and sets and costumes are incredible, but the entire movie hinges on us liking Joe, and we only like Joe because Joe is Tom.
Parker Posey as Patricia
Patricia is probably my favorite You’ve Got Mail character. Joe’s girlfriend flits from scene to scene, talking and moving at the speed of light, barely taking a moment to breathe. Joe rolls his eyes and seems to be generally annoyed with her, but IMHO, Patricia is THE BEST. She’s clearly a big time player in the book publishing world, but when she *could* be mean and cut-throat, she’s actually always complimentary. She praises Frank’s piece on Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and tells Joe that Kathleen has flawless taste and would make a great children’s book editor. Parker does her usual thing and elevates what could’ve been a throw-away role into the one I probably quote more than any other.
Greg Kinnear as Frank
Kathleen’s current live-in boyfriend Frank, portrayed to perfection by Greg Kinnear, is a writer obsessed with himself almost as much as he’s obsessed with his typewriter. Greg is perfect in this role because he’s unlikeable enough to make you roll your eyes and root for Kathleen and Joe, but still likeable enough that you don’t hate him when he and Kathleen’s inevitable breakup happens. It’s kind of the charm of Greg Kinnear – he’s always toeing the line between nice guy and jerk-disguised-as-nice-guy.
Steve Zahn as George
Shaggy-haired George, one of Kathleen’s employees at The Shop Around the Corner, is portrayed by Guy Who Is Not A Superstar Despite Being In Everything, Steve Zahn.
Heather Burns as Christina
Kathleen’s broke-college-student shop employee wears ties and cardigans with aplomb, whining that if the bookstore fails she’ll have to move to Brooklyn. Imagine that! Brooklyn! A place where unemployed people go to live! If her name or face aren’t ringing in bells, you might recognize her from her other iconic movie quote: “That’s a tough one. I’d have to say April 25th. Because it’s not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket.”
Jean Stapleton as Birdie
All hail Edith Bunker! Did you know Jean won three Emmys and two Golden Globes for her role as Archie Bunker’s wife on All in the Family? She’s been a Hollywood staple(ton) since the 1950s. As Birdie Conrad, she’s Kathleen Kelly’s senior citizen bookkeeper at The Shop Around the Corner and hilariously quirky throughout – also, rich! She bought Intel at $6.
Dave Chappelle as Kevin
Playing the role of Joe’s sidekick, Kevin, Dave Chappelle adds some comedic relief in a role that is surprisingly off-brand and hilariously pure for him.
Couch-Sharing Capability: High
The first time I ever saw You’ve Got Mail was in theaters. I was in the 8th grade and went with three girls from my class. One of their moms dropped us off at the theater and went shopping at JCPenney until we were ready to be picked up. About a third of the way through the film, the other girls got bored and went to flirt with boys in the movie theater’s arcade. But me? I was enchanted. I refused to leave, and ended up watching most of the movie alone – a big feat for an eighth grader! My first viewing may have been lonely, but this is one movie that you should never have to watch alone (unless you want to). So gather up your pals who love romance and seasonal coziness and 90s nostalgia!
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Hot Toddies
You’ve Got Mail is one of those movies that isn’t a Christmas movie but because it has one (1) Christmas scene it some how feels like a Christmas movie. Sure, it has blooming trees in spring and bouquets of sharpened pencils in fall, but something about this movie is so damn cozy that you’ll want to curl up with a warm beverage of your choosing. Hot chocolate, apple cider, a hot toddy…spike them or don’t, the booze is viewer’s choice.
Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Required Viewing
At this point, You’ve Got Mail is basically FYA canon. We’ve probably all seen it, and we probably all love it. I would go so far as to bet that a large chunk of FYAers count it among their favorite films. I could wax-poetic about this modern masterpiece for hours, but I probably don’t need to convince you anyway.
If, however, you are one of the few people here who have not seen this movie, or aren’t yet convinced that you should, check out Sarah’s 152 reasons why she loves You’ve Got Mail, because they could be 152 reasons why *YOU* love it too.