Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Nora Ephron
Stars: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Parker Posey, Greg Kinnear, Jean Stapleton, Steve Zahn, Dave Chappelle, Heather Burns, Dabney Coleman, John Randolph.

With the charming Sleepless In Seattle, writer/director Nora Ephron successfully remade the ’40’s tear jerker An Affair To Remember, as a vehicle for Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Ephron attempts to recapture much of that same magic with this pleasant enough remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 comedy The Shop Around The Corner. Based on Nikolaus Laszlo’s play Parfumerie, the film has previously been remade, as In The Good Old Summertime, with Judy Garland.

Ephron’s contemporary take on this classic tale of two shop assistants who turn out to be pen pals updates the plot for the computer literate ’90’s. In You’ve Got Mail, Ephron uses the possibilities of the internet as its central plot device. This sleepless in cyberspace explores how two people who regularly communicate over the net can actually live close by and pass each other in the street without ever knowing it. The catch here is that the two people who enjoy a cosy e-mail romance by night are actually business rivals by day. Eventually romance blossoms between the pair as they realise that they actually have quite a lot in common.

Hanks plays Joe Fox, an entrepreneurial book dealer who runs a chain of bookstores. His latest superstore opens in New York, a block away from the small book shop, quaintly known as The Shop Around The Corner, and threatens to close this 42 year old family business. Joe frequently clashes with the shop’s owner Kathleen Kelly (Ryan).

While rivals in business, Joe and Kathleen are already secretly correspondents, who share a sort of intimacy through their nightly communications in an Internet chat room. He is known as NY152, while she calls herself Shopgirl. They share many of their personal secrets and details of their daily lives. But it is only when Joe helps her with her business problems that the anonymity begins to break down, and their relationship becomes more personal. Joe has to somehow break down Kathleen’s resistance before he can tell her the truth.

Within the context of the romantic comedy, Ephron also addresses the changing face of our society, and the clash between the old ways of doing business and the modern way of life. Kathleen’s boyfriend Frank (played with ease and charm by Greg Kinnear) is a journalist who rails against technology and the corporatisation of America from his old fashioned typewriter. The script, co-written by Ephron and her sister Delia, contains some nice one liners, and the sparkling dialogue is delivered with verve by an attractive cast.

There is plenty of chemistry between the two charismatic stars, teamed together for the third time. Their easy going rapport and laid back charm should ensure that this lesser effort is, nonetheless, a huge hit over the Christmas holiday season. Ryan is vivacious and perky, and delivers her usual delightful performance. Hanks is solid, but somehow is not as convincing as the hard hearted businessman who discovers his humanity. The supporting cast consists of indie regulars Parker Posey and Steve Zahn, and their ensemble performances add to the material’s broad appeal.
You’ve Got Mail is innocuous enough and quite enjoyable for the most part. The main problem with this light weight film is that it is overlong, and eventually outstays its welcome. There is a sense of unnecessary padding, and the second half of the film becomes a little tiresome as it limps towards its predictable conclusion. Nonetheless, You’ve Got Mail is not without appeal, and this delightful, feel good, but occasionally saccharine romantic comedy will undoubtedly please fans of the genre.

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