You've Got Mail

You've Got Mail is an American romantic comedy released in 1998 by Warner Brothers. It is a remake of the film The Shop Around the Corner (1940), in which two letter-writing lovers are completely unaware that their sweetheart is in fact the co-worker with whom they share a certain degree of animosity. There was also a 1949 musical remake (In the Good Old Summertime) starring Judy Garland. You've Got Mail updates that concept to the use of e-mail. The name of the film is an example of product placement, based on the trademark greeting that AOL users hear when they receive new e-mail. The film received significant media coverage leading up to its release in anticipation of the romantic coupling of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, who had appeared together previously in Joe vs. The Volcano (1990) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993).

You've Got Mail was directed by Nora Ephron and is set in the Upper West Side of New York City. Ephron insists that You've Got Mail was as much about the West Side itself as the characters, highlighting the 'small town community' feel that pervades the West Side.

The script was written by Ephron and her sister Delia Ephron (with a credit given to Miklós László, the writer of the original play). The production team included Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron (who worked with Nora on films such as Michael and Sleepless in Seattle), and Lauren Shuler Donner. The supporting cast included David Chappelle, Greg Kinnear, Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton, and Dabney Coleman. The film is accompanied by a score written by George Fenton.

Plot summary

Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) is involved with Frank Navasky (Greg Kinnear). While Frank, a newspaper writer for the New York Observer, is devoted to his typewriter, Kathleen prefers her laptop and logging into her AOL e-mail account. There, using the screen name "Shopgirl", Kathleen communicates with "NY152". This is the screen name for Joe Fox (Tom Hanks). 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 central conflict of the film revolves around the ability of Kathleen and Joe to interact well in virtual reality while they are business competitors in the "real world." A persistent mode of dramatic irony appears when Kathleen and Joe read each other's emails.

The movie begins with Kathleen logging on to her AOL account to read an email from "NY152" (Joe). In her reading of the e-mail, she reveals the boundaries of the online relationship; no specifics. The two then pass themselves on their respective ways to work, unbeknownst to each other. Joe arrives at work, overseeing the opening of a new Fox Books in New York with the help of his friend and assistant Kevin (Dave Chappelle). Meanwhile, Kathleen and her three store assistants, George (Steve Zahn), Birdie (Jean Stapleton), and Christina (Heather Burns) open up shop.

Following a day on the town with his eleven-year-old aunt Annabel and four-year-old brother Matthew (the children of his grandfather and father, respectively), Joe enters Kathleen's store to let his younger relatives experience storytime. The two have a friendly conversation that reveals Kathleen's fears about the Fox Books store opening around the corner, shocking Joe. He introduces himself as "Joe. Just call me Joe", omitting his last name of Fox and makes an abrupt exit with the children. However, at a publishing party later in the week, Joe and Kathleen meet again, both of them being in the "book business", where Kathleen discovers Joe's true identity.

All the while, "NY152" and "Shopgirl" continue their courtship, to the point where "NY152" asks "Shopgirl" to meet. Too embarrassed to go alone, Joe brings Kevin along for moral support. He insists that "Shopgirl" may be the love of his life. Meanwhile Kevin, looking in a cafe window at the behest of Joe, discovers the true identity of "Shopgirl". When Joe discovers that it is actually Kathleen behind the name, he confronts her as Joe (concealing his "NY152" alter ego). The two exchange words and Joe leaves the cafe hurt.

Following invitations from Frank and Joe via "NY152", Kathleen begins a media war, including both a boycott of Fox Books and an interview on the local news. 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 not as personal as her independent shop. Eventually, the 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 compares George's knowledge to a PhD) and a gleeful Birdie retires off the riches of her investments: "I bought Intel at six!"

Allowing time for their electronic relationship to convalesce, Joe visits Kathleen while she is sick, and for the first time makes a favorable impression. Joe discovers that Kathleen has broken up with Frank, who moved in with a talk show host that interviewed him, predated one week by Joe and his uptight girlfriend, Patricia (Parker Posey), who broke up in their apartment building while stuck in the elevator. The two develop a tentative friendship that blossoms over the course of a few weeks and they eventually fall for one another.

At the same time, "NY152" and "Shopgirl" agree to meet one more time. Joe and his dog Brinkley (the topic of numerous e-mails) meet Kathleen at Riverside Park. The two kiss as Kathleen cries and Over the Rainbow takes the movie out.



You've Got Mail featured a number of popular songs, and a successful soundtrack was released in December of 1998. The soundtrack featured a mixture of classics from the 1960s and 1970s, particularly the work of Harry Nilsson, as well as new original recordings and covers. One famous soundtrack includes 'Somewhere over the rainbow'. More information can be found here.


  • Sara Ramirez of Grey's Anatomy fame can be spotted as Rose the Zabar's cashier.
  • Michael Palin's part was cut out of the final movie.
  • The character of Joe Fox was named after a former boyfriend of Nora Ephron who was an editor at Random House for authors such as John Irving and Truman Capote. His son Logan Fox ran an independent bookstore that succumbed to the pressure of big-box book retailers in 2007.
  • During the "storytime" scene, Kathleen reads a section from Roald Dahl's celebrated autobiography Boy, describing "The Great Mouse Plot of 1923".
  • Meg Ryan's character uses a PowerBook G3 laptop computer.
  • Tom Hanks' character uses an IBM ThinkPad computer with a Pentium II processor.
  • AOL and Time Warner (parent of Warner Bros.) would merge in 2000.


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