So you know how it is. At Christmas and during the New Year period when you’re off from work, you find yourself watching dreadful-but-they-mean-something-to-you films at half 11 in the morning that you would have no intention of watching, you know, like you would a proper movie on a Saturday night with a takeaway and a beer. Yet somehow this activity is authorised around the birth of the baby Jesus, whilst you eat a healthy breakfast consisting of three-day-old cold roast potatoes and the orange crèmes out of the Quality Street.
I found myself conducting this unashamed behaviour over the festive season when I was channel flicking one mid-morning, and came across the start of a film I think I can genuinely say I had not seen since its release in 1998 when I saw it at the cinema. The film in question is the romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail, also known as the one-where-Tom-and-Meg-are-in-a-third-movie-together. I nonchalantly watched the first ten minutes or so, just for old time’s sake of the fourteen-year-old film, not in the least bit because I was drawn into the romanticism of the way New York is depicted like some kind of Monet masterpiece where Goodfellas never happened. We all have our weaknesses, don’t judge.
However it wasn’t so much all the cutesiness of New York “in the fawl” that made me want to hit record on my Sky+ a few minutes later when I had to go and run some errands; it was actually my remembrance of the storyline. Tom and Meg. Seen them before in other movies they’ve done together. Romantic comedy… yadda yadda… been there… but then – hold on! Oh yes, I remember! This is the one where she runs an independent children’s bookshop on the upper west side of Manhattan, and he is the son of a CEO of a huge, behemoth, chain bookstore! And he puts her out of business! Being fourteen years later and now working for a website such as this, I simply had to watch it again and see just how relevant any of it still was; could this fluffy Nora Ephron comedy actually have been ahead of its time?
The truth is, as I watched – whilst not paying much attention to the anonymous flirtatious emailing the pair indulge in throughout the movie – I had to admit there were some quite nerve-hitting moments, as Kathleen, Ryan’s character, often reminisced about the shop and her deceased mother with whom she had ran it with for forty-two years prior to her death. There were long, colourful, warm shots of the exterior of her children’s bookshop, stuffed toys of the Winnie the Pooh characters on shelves, fairy lights, jars of sweets, pictures of the Cat in the Hat on the walls and beautiful wooden interiors… all very attractive and very New Yawk. Just the sort of children’s bookshop you only see in the movies.
Ah, but then, the big bad wolf that is the chain bookstore sets up just around the corner from the little children’s bookshop and as the film progresses, Kathleen has no choice but to sadly close her shop down as she realises, with her heart breaking, that she just can’t compete. Life imitating art? Well, you decide. I just saw lots of bitter irony here. The storyline however that made it for me, was how she was quite willing to forgive Mr CEO-son (Hanks) when she finds out he is the anonymous email-pal, and finds herself falling in love with him… and of course, they live happily ever after. Even when he’s making millions from his department bookstore and she’s got a coffee shop-chain moving into her beloved bookshop’s premises.
But hey, it’s only a movie… right?