In the late 90's, Tom Hanks owned the box office. He was rarely paired with a more perfect partner than Meg Ryan in 1998'S YOU'VE GOT MAIL.
At the time, it was a clever riff on a new way to meet people, an online relationship woven through all the long delays, fax-like sounds and interminable waits for your AOL to connect.
But we have to admit that little voice "You've Got Mail!" WAS kind of magic back in the day. While that thrill wasn't timeless, movie romance very much IS through Hanks and Ryan in the third of their on screen pairings.
Meg Ryan is at her charming, stunning girl-next-door best as Kathleen Kelly, the owner of a boutique children's book store in Manhattan. She's in a long-time relationship with local columnist Frank, well played by Greg Kinnear (As Good As It Gets, Sabrina). Frank is in love with his own writing, weaving in more pseudo intellectual references than Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football.
Kathleen is secretly falling in love on line with a mystery man she met via a chatroom, who seems in sync with her in every way. While they never share anything specific or personal, they seem like an incredible match.
The other side of that secret romance is Joe Fox (Hanks) the wealthy son of mega-giant bookstore magnate Nelson Fox, played for big laughs by Dabney Coleman (9 to 5, Tootsie). Joe's in a long time relationship with Patricia (Parker Posey) who seems to be a perfect fit until Joe starts looking a little closer.
Of course, Joe has no idea that the woman he's falling for online owns the store his family's brand new superstore is about to put under. Until......
Well told, funny and charming, YOU'VE GOT MAIL has an all-star supporting cast, including the perfect Dave Chappelle (A Star is Born) as Joe's right hand man, Steve Zahn (That Thing You Do!) as George, the most mellow book store employee in history and the great Jean Stapleton (Edith on "All in the Family") as the little shop's bookkeeper, who also worked for Kathleen's mother when she opened the store.
Writer/Director Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle) sets a perfect balance of comedy, romance and drama, serving up a blend that Hanks & Ryan effortlessly lift into a great time at the movies.
Kathleen's struggles to understand why men as a species like "The Godfather"so much are hilarious. Watching Hanks silently wrestle with the realization of who he is at his core brings unexpected heart to the comedy, showing the versatility we've all come to expect from him. Consider that he made this film between "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Green Mile". That three run stretch says it all.
The music score is loaded with a near perfect blend of songs from Harry Nilsson, Louis Armstrong, Bobby Darin, Roy Orbison, Randy Newman, Steve Wonder, Carole King.....the list goes on.
While the AOL setting of YOU'VE GOT MAIL has aged out, the charms of the film are timeless, earning it an A.
As Kathleen says in one of her emails to Joe:
"The odd thing about this form of communication is that you're more likely to talk about nothing than something. But I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings."