The only thing I love more than a Nora Ephron movie is a Nora Ephron movie starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, so don’t take this the wrong way but: You’ve Got Mail is extremely weird. So weird, in fact, that I spent a recent Saturday afternoon re-watching all 119 minutes expressly for the purpose of noting down its most delicious peculiarities. And that isn’t to say the film isn’t also wonderful, funny, uplifting and charming, because it is. When it comes to romantic comedies birthed in the 90s, weirdness and wonderfulness are essentially two peas in a pod, living side by side quite peacefully (for the most part). Keep scrolling for copious evidence, and meet me in the comments to discuss.
1. Meg Ryan (excuse me — Kathleen Kelly) gets her coffee from Starbucks.
This isn’t weird in and of itself, because lots of people get their coffee from Starbucks, but! Kathleen Kelly’s central gripe over the course of the movie is that she, an independent bookstore owner on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is being put out of business by the impersonal mega-chain Fox Books, which leaves me wondering why she would frequent impersonal mega-chain Starbucks for her daily caffeine fix instead of, say, the myriad independent coffee shops in her neighborhood. It seems a tad hypocritical, no?
2. Kathleen loooooooves the smell of Scotch tape.
Pardon moi, but is this a thing?????? I didn’t even think Scotch tape had a smell to begin with, much less a smell you could love, so either I’m ignorant (which I’ll admit is possible) or this falls squarely into the weird pile (which I’m convinced is probable). Regardless, it’s definitely weird she practically French kisses a Scotch tape dispenser, which is more than she ever does on-screen with Joe Fox.
3. Miss Rhode Island is one of Kathleen’s book store employees and Callie Torres from Grey’s Anatomy is the cashier at Zabar’s.
As the newly self-appointed Hey This Movie Is Weird, Huh? editor at Man Repeller, I would be remiss not to point out it’s extremely weird (as in, weird I never noticed before) that my favorite character in Miss Congeniality (the last movie I covered for this beat) makes an appearance in You’ve Got Mail as well. In other words, Heather Burns, the same actress who plays Miss Rhode Island in Miss Congeniality, plays bookstore assistant Christina Plutzker in You’ve Got Mail, leading me to believe that she is the unsung secondary character actress of late 90s/early aughts cinema. Further proof: She also had a role in Two Weeks Notice. So what the heck happened to Heather Burns???? I’m not sure, but she is now officially on my list of celebrities I would invite to a fantasy dinner party.
I also have to mention the appearance of one Callie Torres from Grey’s Anatomy moonlighting as a Zabar’s employee named Rose at the checkout counter. She gives Kathleen Kelly a hard time for standing in the “cash only” line even though she doesn’t have any cash, but that’s okay because it gives Tom Hanks (excuse me, Joe Fox) the opportunity to swoop in like a classic 90s rom-com mansplaining knight in shining trench coat and convince her to swipe Kathleen’s credit card on the sly.
4. Kathleen and Joe break up with their significant others without a hitch.
I’m sorry, but the fact that Katheen and her boyfriend, Frank, sit down over at a restaurant with glasses of white wine and calmly dissolve their relationship with mutually serene smiles is more unrealistic than Cinderella walking around all night in glass slippers. Granted, I haven’t heard every breakup story in the history of the world, but I’ve heard quite a few and none of them include two people blissfully realizing they don’t love each other at the exact same time and moving on without a tear. Does this happen? Am I living in a breakup bubble? I’m inclined to call it EXTREMELY UNLIKELY and therefore EXTREMELY WEIRD but please correct me with examples if I’m wrong. Oh, and Joe’s breakup is equally seamless (apparently) because we don’t even get to witness a conversation — the camera just pans to him jauntily walking down a dock, duffel bag in hand, after parting ways with a manic Parker Posey to go live on the family boat with his creepy dad!
5. Meg Ryan pretending to have a cold sounds exactly like Meg Ryan pretending to cry.
I would try to describe what I’m talking about, but in this case a YouTube clip speaks a thousand words:
Exhibit A, from You’ve Got Mail:
Exhibit B, from When Harry Met Sally:
Apparently she only has one brand of nasal, and it’s delightful.
6. The central conflict of the movie would be solved in a hot sec IRL.
When I was nearing the end of the movie, I realized the 119 minutes of “will they, won’t they” would take place in 15 minutes in real life. Realistically that’s how long it would take for Joe Fox to accidentally let it slip that he has a dog named Brinkley — a dog Kathleen thinks belongs to her mysterious internet Romeo — or for Kathleen to ask, oh, I don’t know, WHERE JOE FOX LIVES, which would be a dead giveaway since the address of his building is his screen name on AOL. In other words, the plot has a potential hole so big an entire Fox Books superstore could fit through it. Weird.
7. Fox Books probably gets wiped out by Amazon ten years later.
Photo by Handout via Getty Images.