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Golden oldie: You’ve Got Mail (1998)

Written by Culture, Film, Uncategorised

The film, the myth, the legend. The one I try and make almost everyone I know watch. The one set two years before the classification of “golden oldie” ends so I am really pushing it here. It’s the film that should really say e-mail instead of mail and I can’t tell you how annoying I find that. The one, yes, that stars Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.

Being the romantic that I am – I love a good rom-com. But why does You’ve Got Mail top the list for me? Because there’s books. There are a lot of books. I’m an English Literature student so contractually speaking I have to love books. But after all, this is a film where Ryan and Hanks are rival book store owners falling in love over an anonymous email service in New York.

We don’t watch it just to see them together by the end; I think we watch films like You’ve Got Mail for the build up to the finale.

It’s incredibly wholesome. Even more so than When Harry Met Sally – and yes, that’s the small hill I will die on. Hanks unwittingly gives Ryan business advice (“go to the mattresses”), whilst Ryan even serves Hanks in her “Shop Around the Corner”. In a sort of ‘serendipity’ style, we always know they’ll get together – major plot points are pretty obvious and it’s easy to see where it’s going. But I don’t think we watch it just to see them together by the end of the film; I think we watch films like You’ve Got Mail for the build up to the finale. The moments of nervousness before typing out an email, excitement when they turn on their computer and a voice chimes ‘you’ve got mail’ and literally any scene that includes the dog that Joe (Hanks) owns.

Nora Ephron
Image Credit: IMDB

Nora Ephron had a huge influence in the films production; working as director, producer and screenwriter in a time before movements like MeToo and #TimesUp. Just reading through her wikipedia page is inspiring, since Ephron was very much not a woman who would let people just ‘get away’ with things. Since she couldn’t work at Newsweek because she was a woman, she participated in a class action lawsuit against them for sexual discrimination. Then she proved them very wrong and was eventually nominated for three Academy Awards for best original screenplay in 1983 (Silkwood), 1989 (When Harry Met Sally…) and 1993 (Sleepless in Seattle). She won the best original screenplay BAFTA in 1990 for When Harry Met Sally. And Ephron worked in film, so of course there were a few, well, not-so-good attempts, as any filmmaker has (see: two nominations at the Razzies for Bewitched in 2006). She wrote multiple books, essay collections and plays. She even has a cash prize of $25,000 awarded at the Tribecca film festival in her name for a female writer or filmmaker “with a distinctive voice”.

Ephron sadly passed away in 2012, but I think she’d be immensely proud and involved with the work that’s going on today to improve the film industry for female filmmakers and underrepresented voices. And whilst it is true, looking back, that her films are nowhere near as diverse or representative of society as many movies are today, her legacy as a female director (in a time where sexism was not called out on as often as it should’ve been) lives on through productions like You’ve Got Mail.

Both bookstores work on the basis of selling stories and keeping them alive. In a meta way – that’s also what this film does for Ephron

And honestly it’s just another one of the reasons I am a tiny/lot obsessed with this film. Having this contextual knowledge of Ephron’s life and work makes watching it all the more poignant. Both bookstores, (The Shop Around the Corner and Fox Books) work on the basis of selling stories and keeping them alive. In a meta way – that’s also what this film does for Ephron.

It might not be perfect, but it’s heartwarming and beautiful to watch since it’s (mostly) set at Christmas – but not a Christmas film! Anyway it’s June, I’m not getting into this right now. Come back to me in November and then we’ll talk. But when the world feels like absolute chaos, and we’re all relying on technology to stay in touch with each other now more than ever, it’s weirdly comforting to see Ryan and Hanks using what seems like an early version of Tinder and just blatantly ignoring any ‘stranger-danger’ ideas. At least we know we’re not alone. And if you want the full experience, you might as well go ahead and Netflix Party it. Then you’ll have mail the whole way through the film.

Although… I mean c’mon they are literally sending each other emails why is it called You’ve Got Mail and not You’ve Got Emails like either rephrase it or choose a different name, please!

Last modified: 25th June 2020

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