The YOU’VE GOT MAIL Live-Blog: A Nora Ephron Tribute, Book Riot Style

Jeff O'Neal

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Jeff O'Neal is the executive editor of Book Riot and Panels. He also co-hosts The Book Riot Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @thejeffoneal.

I bet most booklovers have a soft spot for Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail. So, as our little fare thee well to her, here is a live-blog of this weirdly seductive and flawed little cup of Sunday coffee. (You’ve Got Mail, I discovered, is free to stream for Amazon Prime customers, though not Netflix streaming). Follow-along some late Saturday night.

Note: Typos and errors left intact. Makes is raw and from the street, no?



This has to be the cheesiest song ever. And a painful rendering of NYC. We get it: dial-up modem sound and Manhattan wireframes.



How much moony do real estate brokers who work on the Upper West Side owe Nora Ephron? These places are amazing fantasy-land apartments. Part of me thinks Greg Kinnear’s character is only dating Kathleen Kennedy for this classic 6 apartment.



The script note to the production designer was something like this: “If there aren’t at least sixteen lamps in Ryan’s apartment, I’m firing you.” Count them as we walkthrough here.



Camera makes quick three-second left-hand turn for some bookshelf porn. (Note: bookshelf porn is not videos of people doing it on bookshelves. You have to google something else for that.)



I have accidentally quoted this thing about solitaire as actual fact at least 23 times.



How much do we blame Ryan for cyber-cheating on Kinnear here? Jaunty musical cues notwithstanding? I say a 5.5 out of 10. 10 being full John Edwards.



It’s fashionable now to make fun of Meg Ryan and whatever cosmetic work she’s had done. But she is great at some really hard things–acting while reading/listening is one of them. Pay attention. Hanks isn’t nearly as good–he’s all furrowed brows and eye-rolling.



I judge people who embroider things, and I judge them super-hard for embroidering things for their pets.



Out of context, sending someone a bouquet of sharpened pencils might be considered pretty hostile. Or at least that’s what I intended.



God, look at Posey work. No one does lovable bi-polar like she does.



Both Hanks and Ryan leave their laptops open overnight. No real human does this.



Trying not to be bothered that the text message is “You Have Mail.” Trying trying trying trying.



Any email starting with “Dear Friend” is spam 98.4 percent of the time. Also, are there still chat rooms? Did Twitter and IM kill these? Or are they reserved for Swedish punk-hackers and their circles?



Montages of New York in the fall. Cannot beat.



This nut shop exists and I have been there. The nuts are what you’d expect. Side note: when are nuts going to have their coffee moment? Why aren’t varieties of cashews a thing? Or particularly full-bodied almonds? I would pay extra for local hazelnuts, assuming that regular hazelnuts are not already local.



The Starbucks inclusion has me puzzled. Surely they paid, but then Hanks mocks Starbucks. Did they do that just to throw me off the scent? Well, it didn’t work and I notice and resist your secondary media trickery. I do want a frappuccino right now, though.



Walking on opposite sides of the fenced streets is probably too too much. But I can’t hear you over the mid-1990s soft alt rock.



Whoa….a black person in a Nora Ephron movie!?!



“We’re going to sell them cheap books and legal addictive stimulants”



Are there any women in America left rocking the oversize button-down shirt and tie look?



You’ve Got Mail is definitely the pivotal moment in the transformation of Meg Ryan from Meg Ryan into a wax statue that maybe once was Meg Ryan. Still looks good, but the knowledge of what is to come casts a dark, collagen-filled shadow over the movie.



Is this scene of three generations of Foxes a satire or parody or what? Do corporate executives really do finger guns with sound effects when a competitor goes out of business? This is just some weird liberal fever dream I know.



Don’t have time to do the math, but the elder Fox exchanging letters with Meg Ryan’s mail is getting a CREEPY pin stuck in it.



PRIDE AND PREJUDICE sighting. And it’s the BBC series tie-in with Colin Firth on the cover. Hanks is reading it and shaking his head. He is also drinking a Heineken. For the record, Hanks, I guess, is supposed to be Mr. Darcy, but he is neither too proud nor prejudiced, whereas Ryan is both. This is makes Kinnear Mr. Collins I guess, which I enjoy.



This is the scene where they trade banal observations that they would save for Twitter today.



Ephron rarely let Meg Ryan wear an item of clothing that seemed made for someone her size or gender. This sweater looks like something Bill Cosby would have donated to the Salvation Army in 1986.



“You are a lone reed, standing tall, waving boldly in the corrupt sands of commerce.”



“So much of what I see reminds me of what I read in a book, but shouldn’t it be the other way around?” SICK BURN ON SELF, MR.



Aunt Gillian and Nanny Maureen run away together at the end of the movie. I would watch a spin-off movie about them and their spousal support checks while they drive motorcycles through Spain.



I once saw a children’s fair like this on the Upper West Side and it was perfect and magical. It’s amazing what comfortable wealth can do on an October Sunday when it puts its mind to it.



Does anyone know if this children’s book about the mouse in the cookie jar is real? Also, the princess hat is undeniably adorable.



The mock turtleneck is code in Ephron-land for slightly dangerous but ultimately desirable professional men with purpose and spine. Everyone else wears tweed and plaid ties.



“Twirling.” This sets up the single worst moment in the Ryan-Ephron Rom-Com Trilogy. I am getting nauseous just thinking about it.



So quaint that a physical bookstore was the controversial usurper. It’s like when we were all worried about the Russians. Sigh, those were the days.



“I’m going to lose my job and I won’t be able to pay my rent and I am going to have to move—to Brooklyn!” Single most dated NYC-related comment in the film.



“What nut in The Observer?” Redundancy alert.



All of Hanks’ Godfather impressions in this movie are just so bad.



“That caviar is a garnish!” You can’t say more bougie things than that.



Kinnear is wearing corduroy, which is tweed for people who lack conviction.



Love the little dig at publishing nepotism here. Also, the utility of thick-headed flattery.



Both Posey and Ryan wear full pajamas. Is that normal? What percentage of adults wear full pajamas? 10%? I can’t seem to find an answer on Google. That is not a good sign for how many people care about this as much as I seem to.



Ryan is good at listening, but totally hams up the typing. It’s like she is typing in a play and is pounding out prose to the folks in the balcony.



If this movie is made today, Apple pays a bajillion dollars to put MacBooks in this scene.



Hey! It’s that actress who plays a lesbian on Grey’s Anatomy! Also, the least believable social interaction in this movie is that this line works and they accept a credit card. Those check-out people at Zabar’s are tough. I think they recruit KGB burnouts there.



I can’t believe we get the whole song in this living room talent show scene. Excruciating. Almost as bad as Ryan’s singing in the next scene. Bad Ryan singing also in When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. I think it’s in her contract, that and pantsuits.



I like that the one author we get is a complete sellout.



Is there a word for that feeling when someone you are in the midde of emailing IMs you?



I love how Ephron is such a fan of movies that other movies often seep into hers. Casablanca, An Affair to Remember, The Dirty Dozen. I sort of wish there was an in-joke from When Harry Met Sally here. Or at least a drunken Carrie Fisher cameo.



Dorky, adorable shadow-boxing. Who is our current queen of dorky adorable? Don’t say Zooey Deschanel. Please don’t do it.



“Save The Shop Around The Corner and you will save your soul.” This message sounds familiar.



One of the plot holes is that Ryan has a sweet 2 million dollar apartment to fall back on when her store goes out of business.



I do love that Ephron gives us the full rhetorical hysterics about independent bookstores and technology. And I am eating it up right now.



And now the crusher: “All this publicity and not one bit of difference.”



One disturbing similarity to Pride and Prejudice is that the romance is initiated by the woman’s financial distress. Unsavory.



For about ten years after this movie came out, Cafe Lalo was slammed every hour of the day. Like, Tuesdays at 3:30pm even. Still pretty slammed, but just in the regular New York coffee place kind of way.



“I knew she would be! She had to be! She had to be!” I miss this Tom Hanks. He made his bones with physical comedy of a realistic sort, and he is so great at it in controlled bursts. Doesn’t get much of chance to show it off now.



This is pretty much the nightmare situation for a blind date. You get there first and the other person turns around at the sight of you and you sit there with a red rose.



I need a judge’s ruling on how much of a dick move this is by Hanks. To come in when he knows she is vulnerable and screw with her. Ephron saves it a little by letting Ryan land a haymaker, but still this borders on an unforgivable manipulation, though it pales in comparison with what is to follow.



SO MANY LAMPS. A drinking game involving lamps in this movie would put even Hunter S. Thompson into a shallow coma.



Also, strings of Christmas lights, and I can’t get enough of them. Every rom-com should be required to have three scenes that have Christmas lights. I don’t care if it’s set in a Turkish prison.



Is it even possible for a late-30s professional to come home from being out for a few hours to an empty inbox anymore? That seems like paradise.



Where do they teach that in any movie with a small business the employees have to be benignly quirky? Is that on the required curriculum at USC?



Ok, I take it back. Ryan is cry-typing now and I totally buy it. And Hanks is reading her email and he looks like he could barf. Well done Ryan-Hanks.



Now I take my take-back back. Hanks over-selling the delete key schtick.



“You are marching into the unknown with nothing! Have a sandwich.” Ephron is great with turns like this. And with food in general. She builds it into the movies in really natural ways. Makes them feel lived-in and familiar. Even though they are wealthy liberal fantasias.



Even the break-ups in the Ryan-Ephron movies make you feel good. Liberating self-realization for everybody! And no financial or biological entanglements to sort out.



In a movie about bookstores, Anne of Green Gables is just the third book mentioned (after Pride and Prejudice and The Godfather, though I think Hanks is referring to the movie, judging by his terrible Brando earlier).



It’s weird that we get an epiphany break-up for Hanks. Feels like this elevator scene should have been cut. We don’t need to see Hanks realize that Posey is terrible (and by terrible I mean fantastic). Instead we have an emotional realization courtesy of working-class guy.



“I am heartbroken, and I feel as if my mother has died all over again.” This is plenty sad and warm. We do not not not not need the ghost-twirling. WHY WHY WHY. I think that’s the major problem with this movie and what keeps it a cut below Sleepless and two cuts below WHMS. It is too sweet by half.



In my role as irony watchdog, I have to mention that none of these things described as ironic are at all ironic.



Stevie Wonder bats 1000 when it comes to music cues. Can’t miss. I don’t care if you dropped “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” into Schindler’s List. Actually, maybe not that one….



Hanks visiting while Ryan is sick is the best scene. He is humbled and she is weirdly confident and defiant. I also love that she throws on a trenchcoat over her pajamas. And her hate-appreciation of him bringing her flowers.



Confession: every time I am looking for something to put flowers in, I quote this “A vahs, a vase, a vahs” thing that Hanks does. It is part of me now. Couldn’t get rid of it with a pair of pliers.



Ryan: Why did you stop by again?
Hanks: Because I wanted to be your friend.
Ryan. Oh.



“I only know him through the…you’re not going to believe this…”

‘The internet?”

Almost as dated as Hanks’ suede jacket .



So after the big finale when Hanks is revealed as ny152 and they kiss, isn’t the first thing out of Ryan’s mouth: How could you play me like that you asshole? Chance she actually forgives him? Is it higher than 60%? Actually, the most likely scenario is that she holds it over him for the next two decades. This is New York after all. We forgive, but we don’t forget. We still hate the Dodgers.



Maybe I am cynical, but is writing a children’s book that hard? Illustrating, yes. But most of the children’s books I’ve read are pretty simple. Write the adults like they’ve had frontal lobotomies and have the kids need to find something for school. QED.



We’re just playing out the string now. After Hanks goes to see her while sick (which is just a check to make sure she can even tolerate him at all), we’re just going through the motions. I think it would have been better if we didn’t get this sequence of scenes of them walking New York together (though I am thankful for them in winter). I wonder if Ephron regretted not giving them some “in love” scenes together at the end of Sleepless in Seattle as was trying to fix that here.



Seriously, all of Ryan’s pants are about three sizes too big. Not looking for Juicy Couture, but step down as mayor of Frumptown.



And we sign-off with a kiss in an edenic Manhattan park and croony version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Thanks Nora, for these warm and rewatchable fantasies.