The underlying narrative is an even more old-fashioned romantic pas de deux that is casually hooked to a newfangled device. The script, cowritten by the director and her sister, Delia Ephron, updates and relocates the Ernst Lubitsch classic, The Shop Around the Corner, to contemporary Manhattan, where Joe Fox (Hanks) is a cheerfully rapacious merchant whose chain of book superstores is gobbling up smaller, more specialized shops such as the children's bookstore owned by Kathleen Kelly (Ryan). Their lives run in close parallel in the same idealized neighborhood, yet they first meet anonymously, online, where they gradually nurture a warm, even intimate correspondence. As they begin to wonder whether this e-mail flirtation might lead them to be soul mates, however, they meet and clash over their colliding business fortunes.
It's no small testament to the two stars that we wind up liking and caring about them despite the inevitable (and highly manipulative) arc of the plot. Although their chemistry transcended the consciously improbable romantic premise of Sleepless, enabling director Ephron to attain a kind of amorous soufflé, this time around there's a slow leak that considerably deflates the affair. Less credulous viewers will challenge Joe's logic in prolonging the concealment of his online identity from Kathleen, and may shake their heads at Ephron's reinvention of Manhattan as a spotless, sun-dappled wonderland where everybody lives in million-dollar apartments and color coordinates their wardrobes for cocktail parties. --Sam Sutherland
Aside from making me want to run away to the Big Apple and work in the children's section at Fox Books, "You've Got Mail" also features Meg Ryan at her most adorable ("Aren't daisies just the friendliest flower?"), Tom Hanks at his most charming, and a terrific supporting cast (Greg Kinnear and those typewriters!). The story, a modernized little "remake" of "The Shop Around The Corner", is more fairy tale than realism -- two people fall in love over email, in war in real life, and however can such a thing be solved -- but it's an enchanting story nonetheless. In a time when romance on the web seems all-too-seedy and in reality, sometimes frankly dangerous, this little tale of two people sharing their most intimate thoughts long before they share a single glance is like a breath of fresh air. Sure, the technology's a little faded, but the magic's still there.