You've Got Mail

You've Got Mail is a 1998 American romantic comedy film directed by Nora Ephron and starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Inspired by the 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklós László (which had earlier been adapted in 1940 as The Shop Around the Corner and in 1949 as In the Good Old Summertime),[3] it was co-written by Nora and Delia Ephron. It tells the story of two people in an online romance who are unaware they are also business rivals. It marked the third pairing of Hanks and Ryan, who previously appeared together in Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993).

You've Got Mail
You've Got Mail.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNora Ephron
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onParfumerie
by Miklós László
Music byGeorge Fenton
CinematographyJohn Lindley
Edited byRichard Marks
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • December 18, 1998 (1998-12-18)
Running time
119 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$65 million[2]
Box office$250.8 million[2]

You've Got Mail received mildly positive reviews from critics.


Kathleen Kelly is involved with Frank Navasky, a left-leaning newspaper writer for The New York Observer who is 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. Using the screen name "Shopgirl", she reads an email from "NY152", the screen name of Joe Fox, 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 that runs Fox Books, a chain of mega bookstores. Kathleen 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 the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Joe arrives at work, overseeing the opening of a new Fox Books in New York City with the help of his best friend, branch manager Kevin. Kathleen and her three store assistants, George, Aunt Birdie, and Christina, open up her small shop that morning.

Following a day with his 11-year-old aunt Annabel and 4-year-old half-brother Matthew, Joe enters Kathleen's store to let his younger relatives experience story time. Joe and Kathleen have a conversation that reveals Kathleen's fears about the Fox Books store opening around the corner. He omits his last name and makes an abrupt exit with the children. At a publishing party for New York book business people later that week, Joe and Kathleen meet again where Kathleen discovers Joe's true identity in the Fox family. She accuses him of deception and spying, while he responds by belittling her store.

When "Shopgirl" and "NY152" finally decide to meet, Joe discovers with whom he has been corresponding. At the table, he joins her without revealing his online identity, leading them to clash once more. NY152 later resumes the online correspondence, apologizes, and promises to eventually tell her why he stood her up.

The Shop Around the Corner slowly goes under. Kathleen's employees move on: Christina goes job hunting, George gets a job at the children's department at the Fox Books store, and Birdie retires. Kathleen takes a break to figure out what she wants to do (write children's books). As the shop goes under, Joe realizes his feelings towards Kathleen and begins building a face-to-face relationship, still keeping his online identity a secret. They slowly build a friendship.

Eventually, NY152 arranges a meeting between his online persona and Shopgirl, but right before she is to meet her online friend, Joe reveals his feelings for Kathleen. Upon arriving at the meeting place, she hears his voice, and sees that NY152 is, in fact, Joe Fox. Kathleen cries tears of joy and reveals that she hoped it would be him.




You've Got Mail is based on the 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklós László and its adaptations.[4] 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 Van Johnson 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, and the lead character's workplace is named "The Shop Around the Corner" as a nod to the 1940 film.[5] 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 joke when Tom Hanks explains that the little girl is really his aunt is taken from Israel Zangwill's story "A New Matrimonial Relation" in The Bachelors' Club (1891).[6]


Principal photography took place primarily in New York City's Upper West Side.[5][7]

Delia Ephron, recalling the film's bookstore setting, said, "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."[7] 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 [sic] 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."[7] Additionally, Ephron had Ryan and Burns rehearse and work in an actual bookstore for a week prior to filming in order to get them into character.[8]

Michael Palin appeared in several scenes that were cut from the film.[9][7]


The film's original website remained live until at least May 10, 2018.[10] The website has proven to be fodder for criticism of web design from the 1990s.[11][12][13]


A soundtrack was released on December 1, 1998, and featured a mixture of classics from the 1950s and 1970s, particularly the work of Harry Nilsson, as well as new original recordings and covers.[14] The score to the film was written by the English composer George Fenton.[15]


Box officeEdit

You've Got Mail debuted No. 1 at the North American box office, earning $18.4 million over its opening weekend.[16] It ultimately grossed $115,821,495 from the domestic market and $135,000,000 from other markets for a worldwide total of $250,821,495.[2]

Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 69% based on 87 reviews, with an average rating of 6.28/10. The critical consensus reads, "Great chemistry between the leads made this a warm and charming delight."[17] Metacritic gives a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on reviews from 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[18] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade A- on scale of A to F.[19]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three-out-of-four stars and lauded the "immensely lovable" main characters.[20] 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."[21] 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."[22] 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.[23]

Conversely, Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club wrote: "Takes almost two self-infatuated, smarmy, condescending, cringe-inducingly sentimental hours to reach its pre-ordained conclusion" and called the film "almost unwatchably saccharine, representing pretty much everything wrong with today's big-budget, high-concept Hollywood filmmaking."[24] 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."[25] Maitland McDonagh also criticized the incongruous product placement "In a film about the ruthless corporate destruction of small businesses, it's hard not to flinch at the prominent placement accorded IBM, Starbucks and AOL logos."[26]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 (AOL would later merge with film distributor Warner Bros' parent company Time Warner to form AOL Time Warner in 2000).[27]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "You've Got Mail (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. January 11, 1999. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "You've Got Mail (1998)". Box Office Mojo. April 8, 1999. Retrieved March 20, 2011.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Ng, David (November 27, 2013). "'Parfumerie,' a 1936 Hungarian play, is an overlooked inspiration". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Falk, Lilian (March 14, 2018). "The Master: Reclaiming Zangwill's Only Künstlerroman". English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920. 44 (3): 275–296 – via Project MUSE.
  7. ^ a b c d Carlson, Erin (February 13, 2015). "You've Got Nora: A Valentine's Day Tribute to Nora Ephron". Vanity Fair. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
  8. ^ Todd Van, Luling (May 19, 2015). "5 Things You Didn't Know About 'You've Got Mail'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
  9. ^ Michael Palin's second volume of published diaries Halfway To Hollywood
  10. ^ "You've Got Mail". Archived from the original on May 10, 2018.
  11. ^ Maggs, Sam (January 30, 2014). "The You've Got Mail Website From 1998 Is Still Up And Wow The Internet Was Terrible Then". The Mary Sue. Archived from the original on July 10, 2019.
  12. ^ Logan, Megan (August 2, 2016). "6 Highlights from the Original 'You've Got Mail' Website". Inverse. Archived from the original on July 10, 2019.
  13. ^ Foy, Kenya (October 12, 2016). "The website for the movie 'You've Got Mail' is a '90s web design time capsule, and we're obsessed". Yahoo Lifestyle. Archived from the original on July 10, 2019. Retrieved July 10, 2019.
  14. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. You've Got Mail at AllMusic
  15. ^ Clemmensen, Christian (April 1, 1999). "You've Got Mail soundtrack review". Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  16. ^ King, Susan (December 22, 1998). "Weekend Box Office". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 10, 2011.
  17. ^ "You've Got Mail (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
  18. ^ "You've Got Mail reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  19. ^ "YOU'VE GOT MAIL (1998) A-". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  20. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 18, 1998). "You've Got Mail Movie Review (1998)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
  21. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 18, 1998). "Film Review; hanks&". The New York Times. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
  22. ^ Loewenstein, Lael (December 13, 1998). "Review: 'You've Got Mail'". Variety. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
  23. ^ Berardinelli, James (1998). "You've Got Mail". ReelViews. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
  24. ^ Nathan Rabin (January 29, 2003). "You've Got Mail". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Archived from the original on April 26, 2003.
  25. ^ O'Sullivan, Michael (December 18, 1998). "'Mail': Pushing Your Buttons". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
  26. ^ Maitland McDonagh. "You'Ve Got Mail | TV Guide".
  27. ^ Kroll, Katy (June 4, 2013). "The Most Egregious Product Placements in Movie & TV History". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 13, 2015.

External linksEdit