You've Got Mail

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You've Got Mail
You've Got Mail.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Nora Ephron
Produced by Nora Ephron
Lauren Shuler Donner
Screenplay by Nora Ephron
Delia Ephron
Based on Parfumerie 
by Miklós László
Starring Tom Hanks
Meg Ryan
Parker Posey
Jean Stapleton
Dave Chappelle
Steve Zahn
Greg Kinnear
Music by George Fenton
Cinematography John Lindley
Edited by Richard Marks
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • December 18, 1998 (1998-12-18)
Running time
119 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $65 million
Box office $250.8 million[1]

You've Got Mail is a 1998 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Nora Ephron, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. It was written by Nora and Delia Ephron. The film is about two people in a online romance who are unaware that they are also business rivals. It marks the third coupling of stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, who had previously appeared together in Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993).


Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) is involved with Frank Navasky (Greg Kinnear), a leftist postmodernist newspaper writer for The New York Observer who's always in search of an opportunity to root for the underdog. While Frank is devoted to his typewriter, Kathleen prefers her laptop and logging into her AOL email account. There, using the screen name 'Shopgirl', she reads an email from "NY152", the screen name of Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) whom she first met in an "over-30s" chatroom. As her voice narrates her reading of the email, she reveals the boundaries of the online relationship; no specifics, including no names, career or class information, or family connections. Joe belongs to the Fox family which runs Fox Books — a chain of "mega" bookstores similar to Borders or Barnes & Noble. Kathleen, on the other hand, runs the independent bookstore The Shop Around The Corner that her mother ran before her. The two are shown passing each other on their respective ways to work, revealing that they frequent the same neighborhoods in upper west Manhattan. Joe arrives at work, overseeing the opening of a new Fox Books in New York with the help of his best friend, branch manager Kevin (Dave Chappelle). Meanwhile, Kathleen and her three store assistants, George (Steve Zahn), Aunt Birdie (Jean Stapleton), and Christina (Heather Burns) open up her small shop that morning.

Following a day on the town with his eleven-year-old aunt Annabel (Hallee Hirsh) and four-year-old half brother Matthew (Jeffrey Scaperrotta) (the children of his frequently divorced grandfather and father, respectively), Joe enters Kathleen's store to let his younger relatives experience storytime. Joe and Kathleen have a friendly casual conversation that reveals Kathleen's fears about the Fox Books store opening around the corner, shocking Joe. He therefore introduces himself with "Joe. Just call me Joe," omitting his last name, and makes an abrupt exit with the children. However, at a publishing party for New York book business people later in the week, Joe and Kathleen meet again, where Kathleen discovers Joe's true identity. She accuses him of deliberate deception and spying, while he responds by belittling her tiny store.

Following suggestions from Frank and from Joe via his secret "NY152" identity Kathleen begins a media war, including both a boycott of Fox Books and an interview on the local news. All the while, "NY152" and "Shopgirl" continue their verbal courtship, until "NY152" asks "Shopgirl" to meet. Too anxious to go alone, Joe brings Kevin along for emotional support. He insists that "Shopgirl" may be the love of his life. Meanwhile Kevin, looking in a cafe window at the behest of nervous Joe, discovers the true identity of "Shopgirl." When Joe is told that it is actually Kathleen behind the name, first flees but returns to confront her as Joe (still concealing his "NY152" alter ego – and his feelings). The two exchange some bitter words and Joe leaves the cafe hurt, leaving Kathleen initially remorseful. Kathleen later returns home puzzled why NY152 might have stood her up but accepts his online apology the next evening.

Despite all efforts, The Shop Around the Corner slowly goes under. In a somber moment Kathleen enters Fox Books to discover the true nature of the store is one of friendliness and relaxation, yet without the same dedication to children's books as her independent shop. Eventually, her employees move on to other jobs; as Christina goes job hunting, George gets a job at the children's department at a Fox Books store (Joe later says working in George's department now requires the equivalent of a PhD in children's literature) and Birdie, who is already quietly wealthy from investments, retires.

Allowing time for their electronic relationship to convalesce, Joe visits Kathleen, bearing flowers, while she is sick, and for the first time makes a favorable impression. Joe discovers that Kathleen has broken up with Frank, who is starting a relationship with Sydney Ann (Jane Adams), a talk show host whose TV interview struck mutual sparks. This is predated by one week by Joe and his uptight egocentric girlfriend, Patricia (Parker Posey), who broke up after being stuck in the elevator in their apartment building, prompting Joe to realize who he prefers. Kathleen and Joe cease hostilities and develop a tentative friendship that warms over the course of a few weeks as they begin to spend more time with one another.

During this period, "NY152" mysteriously puts off meeting Kathleen, prompting friendly amusing banter between Joe and Kathleen. Finally, "NY152" and "Shopgirl" agree to meet for the first time since "NY152" apparently stood her up. Joe and his dog Brinkley (the topic of numerous e-mails) meet Kathleen at Riverside Park. Kathleen admits that she had wanted "NY152" to be Joe so badly, and the two kiss.




You've Got Mail is very loosely based on the 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklós László and its adaptations.[2] Parfumerie was later remade as The Shop Around the Corner, a 1940 film by Ernst Lubitsch, which in 1949 was adapted as a movie musical, In the Good Old Summertime by Robert Z. Leonard starring Judy Garland, and finally in 1963 as a Broadway musical with "She Loves Me", by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (composer and lyricist respectively of "Fiddler on the Roof"). You've Got Mail updates that concept with the use of e-mail.[3] Influences from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice can also be seen in the relationship between Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly — a reference pointed out by these characters actually discussing Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet in the film.


The film was shot primarily in New York City's Upper West Side.[3][4]

Delia Ephron recalled of the film's bookstore setting, saying, "Once we decided that she would be an independent-bookstore owner, the reason we made it a children's bookstore is, I think, we always tried to make movies as personal as we could. To find the thing in it that was personal. And we grew up loving children's books more than anything."[4] Nora Ephron similarly remarked in the film's audio commentary, "This was something that was very important to us—that there be first editions of old children's books. It's part of what make this a serious bookstore. We wanted to sell the idea that this was a place that really cared about the history of children's literature."[4] Additionally, Ephron had Ryan and Burns work in an actual bookstore for a week prior to filming in order to get them into character.[5]

Michael Palin appeared in several scenes that were cut from the film.[6]


A successful soundtrack was released on December 1, 1998, and featured a mixture of classics from the 1960s and 1970s, particularly the work of Harry Nilsson, as well as new original recordings and covers.[7] The score to the film was written by the English composer George Fenton.[8]


Box office[edit]

You've Got Mail debuted No. 1 at the North American box office, earning $18.4 million over its opening weekend.[9] It ultimately grossed $115,821,495 from the domestic market and $135,000,000 from foreign markets for a worldwide total of $250,821,495.[1]

Critical response[edit]

You've Got Mail received generally positive reviews from critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a "Fresh" rating of 69% based on 83 reviews, with the critical consensus, "Great chemistry between the leads made this a warm and charming delight."[10] Metacritic gives a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average" reviews.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three-out-of-four stars and lauded the "immensely lovable" main characters.[11] Janet Maslin of The New York Times also praised the film, writing of the leads, "Ms. Ryan plays her role blithely and credibly this time, with an air of freshness, a minimum of cute fidgeting and a lot of fond chemistry with Mr. Hanks. And he continues to amaze. Once again, he fully inhabits a new role without any obvious actorly behavior, to the point where comparisons to James Stewart (...) really cannot be avoided."[12] Lael Loewenstein of Variety similarly called it a "winning romantic comedy" and praised the chemistry between Hanks and Ryan, writing, "they show why they are two of Hollywood's most bankable and, in many ways, most traditional stars."[13] James Berardinelli further remarked:

You've Got Mail has the virtue of delivering exactly what's expected from it. It's a feel-good movie that offers enough comedy and romance to warm the heart without risking a sentimental overdose. Fans of Sleepless in Seattle will almost certainly fall in love with the similar-yet-different nature of the production; only die-hard cynics will be turned off by all of the unabashed good will. If there are messages to be found here, they're that romance is still thriving in our technological era, and that well-written romantic comedies starring Hanks and Ryan don't represent much of a gamble for the financing studio.[14]

Conversely, Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post criticized the film's use of product placement and its overly "adorable" characters, writing, "For some reason, this film made me feel like a Christmas goose being fattened for slaughter. Its force-fed diet of whimsy cloyed long before the eagerly anticipated romantic payoff arrived to put me out of my misery."[15] Rolling Stone later included You've Got Mail in their list of "Most Egregious Product Placements in Movie & TV History" for the film's frequent use of AOL trademarks.[16]


  1. ^ a b "You've Got Mail (1998)". Box Office Mojo. April 8, 1999. Retrieved March 20, 2011. 
  2. ^ Ng, David (November 27, 2013). "'Parfumerie,' a 1936 Hungarian play, is an overlooked inspiration". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b King, Susan (May 6, 1999). "With 'You've Got Mail,' You Get Lots of Other Goodies Too". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c Carlson, Erin (February 13, 2015). "You've Got Nora: A Valentine's Day Tribute to Nora Ephron". Vanity Fair. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  5. ^ Todd Van, Luling (May 19, 2015). "5 Things You Didn't Know About 'You've Got Mail'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  6. ^ Michael Palin's second volume of published diaries Halfway To Hollywood
  7. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. You've Got Mail at AllMusic
  8. ^ Clemmensen, Christian (April 1, 1999). "You've Got Mail soundtrack review". Retrieved October 14, 2015. 
  9. ^ King, Susan (December 22, 1998). "Weekend Box Office". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 10, 2011. 
  10. ^ "You've Got Mail". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 18, 1998). "You've Got Mail Movie Review (1998)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  12. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 18, 1998). "Film Review; hanks&". The New York Times. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  13. ^ Loewenstein, Lael (December 13, 1998). "Review: 'You've Got Mail'". Variety. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  14. ^ Berardinelli, James (1998). "You've Got Mail". ReelViews. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  15. ^ O'Sullivan, Michael (December 18, 1998). "'Mail': Pushing Your Buttons". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 
  16. ^ Kroll, Katy (June 4, 2013). "The Most Egregious Product Placements in Movie & TV History". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 13, 2015. 

External links[edit]