You’ve Got Mail: A Superfan and a Newbie Watch & Discuss If The Rom-Com Holds Up
Now that our primary activities include, well, watching TV and watching movies, we PureWow staffers spend a sizeable portion of our workday chatting about the latest must-binge series and old classic we’ve streamed. So, we figured, why not watch together? When You’ve Got Mail superfan and PW food editor Katherine Gillen found out that associate food editor Taryn Pire had never even heard of the 1998 Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks *masterpiece,* they immediately made it a (virtual) date to watch together and chat about it as we went. Naturally, they both had ~thoughts~. Read on to find out what happened. (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)
Katherine Gillen (11:01 a.m.): Hiya! Should we be drinking for this?
Taryn Pire (11:02 a.m.): LOL you're so right, we should have mimosas right now. I have literally zero idea what this movie is about. My body is ready.
Katherine: Wow, OK, I was just thinking wine. So one of the defining moments of my relationship with my husband involves this movie. That’s a very dramatic way to put it but whatever.
Taryn: Yesss, hit me with it.
Katherine: When we started dating in college we were like, OK, let’s watch a movie that each person really likes. I chose You’ve Got Mail and he chose…The Godfather. So I watched The Godfather for however many hours it is, like five or whatever. And he got 75 percent through You’ve Got Mail and never finished it. A 90-minute movie.
Taryn: Has he tried watching again? Or he still hasn't finished it?
Katherine: I mean, he’s watching now…can’t really go anywhere escape.
Taryn: LOL finally, poetic justice. Ugh the AOL symbol and all the dial-up sounds are taking me back!
Katherine: Right? The soothing tones of dial up.
Taryn: Ooh, also digging these weird monopoly cars? Bet this looked super hi-tech for the time.
Katherine: 1998…must’ve been a real chill time.
Taryn: Ah yes, the ginormous stunning city apartment with bookshelves built into the wall, how everyone lives in New York City! Wait is this the orgasm movie?
[Editor’s note: She means When Harry Met Sally.]
Katherine: No! This is not the orgasm movie. It’s better, in my opinion. This movie gives me very warm and fuzzy feelings about NYC, even if it is lies. What are your opinions on Tom Hanks?
Taryn: I like him, I have no complaints. I remember reading for psych class in high school in that Malcolm Gladwell book, Blink, that Tom Hanks was the most trustworthy or likeable celebrity. Something about him makes everyone love him for some inexplicable reason. I was shook by him and his wife having coronavirus. OMG, waiting for bae to log onto AIM with bated breath, TBT!
At this point, they both realize that their streaming is off by approximately five minutes, on account of Taryn having commercials. Katherine breaks to transfer her laundry to the dryer. The movie segways into Dreams by The Cranberries.
Taryn: OMG The Cranberries <3
Katherine: Honestly, this is a great movie soundtrack, I definitely owned it on CD. (Remember those?) I first saw this movie as a double-feature Blockbuster rental situation alongside Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…and then subsequently watched it, like, once a week in high school. I bet I’ve seen it 20 times.
Taryn: Wow, renting actual VHS tapes—anything ’90s gets me so nostalgic. Why did you watch so much? You just loved it? That was before you lived in NYC?
Katherine: Pre-New York! I think I just loved the vibes and the story and the whole shebang. Like, I friggin’ love Meg Ryan’s outfits. And this might be one of the only movies in which Tom Hanks is a jerk. Also, the writing is great. Nora Ephron was a genius.
Taryn: I was just going to ask, are we supposed to feel bad for the big bad chain store? I’ve just been assuming Tom Hank’s character is nice.
Katherine: Oh no, he’s the villain, but just wait. Notes from my husband: “Is this the same bookstore that the guy from You works at?”
Taryn: LOL, Joe Goldberg could never. I think it’s also the fall leaves, pumpkins, et cetera that are hitting my heart just right. I never really think about NYC in autumn.
Katherine: Interesting!! I firmly believe fall is New York City’s MOMENT. But I’m a freak for fall.
Taryn: You definitely strike me as a Thanksgiving lover. Halloween is my fave.
Katherine: Ooh…OK, so I hate Thanksgiving.
Taryn: OMG a swing and a miss.
Katherine: LOVE Halloween. And Christmas.
Taryn: Why do you hate Thanksgiving?
Katherine: The food is mushy. It’s all mushy!
They digress into a ranking of major holidays, in which it is concluded that Halloween and Christmas reign supreme and that young Steve Zahn is easy on the eyes.
Taryn: No one layered as well as they did in the ’90s. Like, Buffy's jackets > Buffy the Vampire Slayer. OMG is Cecilia actually Birdie the bookkeeper?
Katherine: No LOL. That would be a twist!
Taryn: This is why I'm bad with movies. I always try guessing what's going to happen.
Katherine: Cecilia is Kathleen Kelly’s (Meg Ryan) deceased mom. Kathleen’s black turtleneck, *chefs kiss*
Taryn: Damn, so weird that Tom Hanks is a corporate bro. I also hate when people get pressed about fancy coffee, let everyone live, Tom!!!
Katherine: Yeah so he’s sold his soul to the corporate machine, and Meg Ryan’s boyfriend Frank (Greg Kinnear) is the revolutionist.
Taryn: When I was a barista, so many men would come in like COFFEE BLACK NOTHING ELSE DO I LOOK LIKE I NEED VENTI SUGAR WHOSIT WHATSITS?!
Katherine: And they all secretly want a Frappuccino.
Taryn: THANK YOU. When they're embarrassed to order a PSL…like there's just no shame in it!!! The same thing happened when I bartended, men get so embarrassed ordering drinks for their wives, they'll be like, "Can I get a Malibu bay breeze...it's not for me." LOL. I can see LOVING Kathleen as a teen. She's just upbeat and independent, living in the city. That was the dream.
Katherine: Also, this is such a pure notion of online dating. Can you imagine this happening in 2020? OK, maybe 2019 because 2020 is trash.
Taryn: Yes! I've been thinking the same. This is wholesome. I so feel you on Meg Ryan, just thinking alone in her giant posh office by lamplight in her turtleneck.
Katherine: If we ever go back to working in an office, my official look will be Kathleen Kelly inspired. I would even be tempted to cut my hair like her but it would definitely not look good.
Taryn: I love that adult fashion was at 100 in the ’90s but they were dressing their kids like actual clowns. I think my favorite ’90s movie fashion is The Craft.
Taryn’s movie pauses for a commercial, so Katherine pauses on an unflattering still of Meg Ryan to make popcorn. They discuss the merits of the ’90s fashion in The Craft and pick back up with story time in Kathleen Kelly’s store.
Katherine: That book Stellaluna in the background, I LOVED that book as a child. Um…it’s about a bat. So I guess it’s cancelled.
Taryn: Ha! So many big ones in her store, Little Miss Spider, The Very Hungry Caterpillar…remember Chrysanthemum?
Katherine: YES! I loved that book too. What is this, turtleneck number three? “This place is a tomb! I’m going to the nut shop where it’s fun,” is such a great line.
Taryn: I feel like you can spend $73 in a bookstore now in seconds.
Katherine: Books are expensive! Unless you’re buying them from Amazon…
Taryn: Joe Fox/Tom Hanks is the ’90s equivalent of Amazon.
Katherine: Look, another turtleneck! Oh wait, the other ironic thing is that this movie references The Godfather like three times.
Taryn: I’m liking her light blue turtleneck. That is wild, your marriage, this movie and The Godfather are cosmically intertwined. This Godfather tangent when she's trying to be, like, hello, you're trying to ruin my life. What the [expletive] is that egg salad?!
Katherine: Tom Hanks stealing the caviar garnish…
Taryn: Only the best for Mr. Corporate! That molded egg salad was horrifying.
Katherine: One of the things that’s improved over time is food. We went from molded egg salad to…good things. I love how unrealistically animated they are when they’re typing. Like…I definitely don’t narrate my own typing. Here comes turtleneck no. 10,00000 for Meg Ryan.
Taryn: “Hello, it's Mr. Nasty.”
Katherine: Look, they’re at Zabars! These people in this grocery are so mean…really painting a bad picture of New Yorkers, we are not mean.
Taryn: I feel like NYC gets such a bad rap for that, but it's OK because they're New York City. I feel like New Jersey is perceived as almost just as mean, but twice as sh*tty so we can't redeem ourselves, LOL. [Editor’s note: Taryn is from New Jersey.]
Katherine: You’ve got Tony Soprano, though. Well, IDK if that’s redeeming.
The next portion was redacted for irrelevant inside jokes about The Sopranos.
Taryn: Ew, the way Tom Hanks is talking to the Zabar’s lady...
Katherine: That does not hold up. Look, another amazing sweater by Meg Ryan.
Taryn: Ooh, this fuzzy black mock turtleneck might be my fave. She’s so pensive. Ahhh, to be a chic independent bookstore owner decorating a Christmas tree and meditating on my life behind a frosty window.
Katherine: And AIM chatting from beneath her Laura Ashley comforter. Their apartments are so plush!
Taryn: AIM is the next level of this sneaky romance, I guess? Like, the fact that the conversation is live is more damning than the emails. No one will say this is suspicious or bordering infidelity...but they're both really quick to hide the laptop!!!
Katherine: Right??? And also, this whole “men love The Godfather and women don’t have a clue” trope is a little…tired.
Taryn: For sure. Fight Club is another one of those.
Katherine: Fight Club is, like, that movie that every teenage boy is smitten with. OK, I'm wondering what Meg is missing that made her go on AIM in the first place—her boyfriend is supportive?
Katherine: And like, Tom Hanks’s character is a terrible dude in this movie!
Taryn: He’s pathetic!!! I so assumed this movie was a rom-com.
Katherine: I like her sweater set.
Taryn: LMFAO, “A perfect blend of poetry and meanness.”
Katherine: They are so eloquent! If I were in an argument like this, I would be stammering all over the place.
Taryn: He sat down at the table, got cocky and didn't tell her he's her date. Why is he still trying to get the upper hand? I would have been walking home already. Also, what is this strange vendetta Meg Ryan has against cocktail waitresses who don't give out their last names??? Wait, did a magician just walk in?
Katherine: Um, can we talk about how all shows set in NYC have completely unrealistic living situations?
Taryn: Yeah, I guess since NYC is so aspirational, what you see on TV is the dream?
Katherine: Like, c’mon, she owns an independent bookstore, her boyfriend is a JOURNALIST. They live on the Upper West Side in that bougie apartment? No friggin’ way, hunny. I can’t get past that. Their laptops are bricks, I love it.
Taryn: The galaxy screensaver with the stars!
Katherine: The way Tom Hanks deletes his email by clicking back every single character…just hold down the backspace key, dude. Also, the side plot point that Birdie was madly in love with Generalissimo Franco, like, WHAT?
Then Taryn tries to guess another plot point, Meg Ryan’s character reveals she didn’t vote in the last mayoral election…and we go on a tangent about Rudy Giuliani. We’re reeled in by another costume change, of course.
Katherine: ANOTHER turtleneck!
Taryn: I’m loving Meg's casual henley tees. I hope she doesn't lose the store for good. But if Tom Hanks pulls some rich guy B.S. to save it, that'll make me sad too. I want her dignity intact WITH the store.
Taryn doesn’t know it yet, but she’s going to be disappointed by the tropes of every rom-com known to humankind.
Taryn: TBT to when everyone in movies wore matching pajama sets.
Katherine: I wear a pajama set, maybe it’s indirectly inspired by this movie!
Taryn: You've been chasing Kathleen Kelly's lewks for a while!
Katherine: I wrote a story about fashion inspired by ’90s movies in my pre-food editor days and this was definitely included.
Taryn: Link me!!!
This is the story. They go on a tangent about Scream, Skeet Ulrich and the teen show Riverdale.
Katherine: Now the sun is coming out, she has daisies, it’s spring in New Yawk, baby! Ugh, to hell with COVID.
Taryn: But when is Joe Fox going to be embarrassed?
Katherine: Ah, you might be disappointed at the end of this.
Taryn: OMG, can Joe stop meddling? Just tell her!!! Why is he baiting her with made-up crap! I'm dying to know how this ends.
Katherine: Just wait. I’m living for her cardigan/tee combos. Fall/winter Kathleen Kelly = turtlenecks. Spring/summer = white tee with a cardi. This movie is just a series of great sweaters.
Taryn: The ’90s is a series of great sweaters. And jackets. Wait, is Joe now trying to get her to like him "for him"? IRL Joe competing with online Joe?
Katherine: LOL yes.
Taryn: I hate it. Joe, YOU are the bad guy!
Katherine: It’s very duplicitous…Outfit change, another bomb cardi, a linen lewk.
Taryn: “How can you forgive this guy for standing you up, but not me for ruining your life?!” Hmm, IDK, why do you think?
Katherine: It’s actually so twisted…and yet the ending gets me every time?
They reach the final scene. Tom Hank’s Joe has baited Meg Ryan’s Kathleen to meet him at Riverside Park. He brings his dog, Brinkley.
Katherine: I think that’s a different dog from the beginning.
Taryn: OK, I love his suede shirt. She looks so hurt that it’s him. That was far too easy. And that does look like a new dog. Brinkley knew he didn't deserve her.
Katherine: Yeah, I definitely now think he didn’t deserve her, but 15 years ago when I first saw this, I was SMITTEN. What’s your final rating? (And honestly I still love it, IDC.)
Taryn: Hmmm...in terms of enjoyment while watching, like a 7/10. What he put her through with literally not a drop of suffering on his end? I didn't like that. And she still has no store, and his store is still around.
Katherine: Yeah, he legit put her out of business. The end is very cynical if you think about it.
Taryn: He's just like, "What if I WASN'T a huge douchebag? Would you have wanted to date me then?"
Katherine: And are we supposed to overlook the fact that she sells out for the Big Box Man?
Taryn: And her revolutionary boyfriend just wasn't the one?
Katherine: Eh…but I still love this movie.
Taryn: Fair. Once you love one, it's kind of a wrap. But she was just...so ready to just be happy with a man that she didn't care? Is that the takeaway?
Katherine: I guess once your store closes, you’ll do anything?
Taryn: Or is this just the usual rom-com shortsightedness?
Katherine: “Already lost to the big box store so what’s left to lose?”
Taryn: Her dignity…LOL
Katherine: Point. I wonder what a 2020 version of this movie would be like. Actually, scratch that, I don’t want to know!
Taryn: Him not showing up to coffee would have been the end.
Katherine: OMG and a cut to black. Like the end of The Sopranos!!! Wow. I think our work is done here?