It is hard not to view every scene in this movie in direct competition (or perhaps more charitably, in direct contrast) with You’ve Got Mail, a classic Nora Ephron joint which I of course love and cherish (both on nostalgia’s sake — it was and is a Mama Duke favorite — and on it’s own merits, as I am a sucker for a technological meet-cute.)

And overall it holds up well, I think! There is no trumping the Ryan-Hanks chemistry, but this movie’s selection of character actors is more fun and more nuanced (Mr. Matuschek’s arc is my favorite element of both movies combined); the screenwriting, when graded against the curve of each respective era, is stronger and wittier.

It’s hard not to think of the principal divergence of the movie as being the treatment of — if not capitalism exactly, then the presence of the corporation in ones life.

For a movie that came out in 1940, The Shop Around The Corner is almost a paean to the healing powers of the company. It saves Margaret Sullivan’s character from destitution; it saves Jimmy Stewart’s character from ignobility; it saves Frank Morgan’s character from suicide.

You’ve Got Mail feels like a renunciation of this philosophy: Meg Ryan’s quaint little bookstore is sweet and nice but it is not here to stay, and we should not feel particularly bad about its demise (everyone involved ends up okay!) in the face of the Fox Books behemoth. (The Onion, naturally, gets the last laugh.)


Lightning bolt
Subscribe to my newsletter

I publish monthly roundups of everything I've written, plus pictures of my corgi.
© 2024 Justin Duke · All rights reserved · have a nice day.