You've Got [email protected]

Their third pairing as prospective partners sees Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan re-united with Sleepless in Seattle writer/director Nora Ephron in a romantic comedy for the electronic age
By Ian Spelling
Selected from the March 1999 Film Review

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You've Got M@il

I remember thinking, when I was really little, like seven or something, 'The man I marry could be from, I don't know, somewhere in Texas'," Meg Ryan, the actress also known as Mrs Dennis Quaid, says in her best sing-song girlie voice. "And look who I married! Dennis and I didn't know it, but he and I lived a block from each other on the Upper West Side. I lived on 80th Street [while in Manhattan during her days as a soap opera actress] and he lived on 81st Street.

Of course, destiny - fate, karma, providence, whatever you might wish to call it - comes very much into play in You've Got Mail, the latest romantic-comedy to team Ryan and Hanks. You've Got Mail, which is based on the 1940 Jimmy Stewart-Margaret Sullavan favourite The Shop Around the Corner, reunites Ryan and Hanks with their Seattle writer-director, Nora Ephron. Ryan plays Kathleen Kelly, the owner of - guess what? - 'The Shop Around the Corner', a comfy little bookstore that's precisely the kind of place Hanks's character, Joe Fox, delights in putting out of business.

Fox's family, in fact, regularly erects mega-bookstores distinguished by deep discount prices and practically no personality. Thus, Kathleen and Joe despise each other. Except, in a very '90s twist, they've come to trust, rely on and care about one another - anonymously - via the Internet. Eventually, they agree to meet and matters grow more complicated from there, especially given the fact that Joe's dating a high-strung editor (Parker Posey) and Kathleen's involved with a columnist (Greg Kinnear) too smart for his own good.

Something the movie picks up on is the question of fidelity. The two e-mailers are falling for each other via computer but both have partners. Isn't that why Meg and Tom have a relationship anyway as they haven't met? Tom says, "I think that if you're giving over true intimacies to an absolute stranger, yeah. If you're making up a bunch of junk, no. But if you really feel as if you're investing in something like this and are doing some degree of self-examination, there's something there."

"I just love working with Tom; I can't help it," Ryan enthuses. "He's funny. He's so easy. He can talk about anything. I can't sit here and describe the joys of Tom Hanks, because we all know what they are, other than to say he's better in r-e-a-l life than in r-e-e-l life."

Hanks, no surprise, likes Ryan, too. In fact it was he who recommended that Ephron send Ryan the You've Got Mail script for her consideration.

"Meg and I are friends who have almost nothing to do with the motion picture industry," explains Hanks, who notes that he and his wife, actress Rita Wilson, don't spend all that much time socializing with Ryan and Quaid. "She's very smart, she doesn't lie and she doesn't acquiesce to somebody's personality just to fold into a conversation. Meg kind of scares me in the way you want to be scared by someone you're working with, yet she also intrigues you in the way you want to be intrigued by someone you're working with."

Picture copyright: Warner Bros
Read the full interview in this Film Review
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