KATHLEEN: Who's that?
JOE: The zipper man! The, uh…
KATHLEEN: Who is that?
JOE: …he’s the guy out, he… repairs zippers on Amsterdam Avenue.
KATHLEEN: Will you cut it out!
JOE: You'd never have to buy new luggage.
I was out with a friend the other night, and she asked me "which do you prefer, Sleepless In Seattle or You've Got Mail?"
Of course, my answer should have been "Um? whaaa? I prefer DIE HARD! As if I watch chick-flicks!" But that's the problem, I've always had a lot of time for a good rom-com. Don't get me wrong, I don't sit around watching 'The Women' and 'Mamma Mia' - what I mean is, if there's a film about New Yorkers falling in and out of love with each other with some amusing dialogue thrown in, I'm more than happy to watch it. This is my only defence for owning 'One Fine Day.'
But the main question is, of course - Sleepless In Seattle or You've Got Mail? I decided the only way to know for sure would be to watch them back-to-back and then write my opinions. So I did that, and now let me say that for my money, 'You've Got Mail' is by far the superior film; both film-wise, romantically-wise and other-wise, Ephron-wise.
Watching 'Sleepless In Seattle' again I couldn't help but hate Meg Ryan. There really isn't a lot to her character; just that she is pretty desperate to meet Sam Baldwin. As she desperately runs around trying to hunt down the guy she heard on the radio, it just seems desperate and NOT romantic.
Now, Sam Baldwin's (Hanks) story I can really get behind. Tom Hanks is absolutely amazing in this film-- playing a character who truly loves his deceased wife; a man who's trying to keep it together for his son, himself and his sanity. There are many moments where his performance reaches a level of real emotion, real truth. You can believe what he's going through and you feel a lot of empathy for him, you can palpably feel his suffering. But Annie Reed (Ryan) is just an annoying woman taking up screen-time, running around trying to recreate 'An Affair To Remember.'
For me, 'You've Got Mail' takes the elements of 'Sleepless In Seattle' and makes a much stronger film. For one, it's all set in New York; and it's one of the most New Yorkian rom-coms you could hope for. It becomes a character, much like in Woody Allen's 'Manhattan' or in 'Serendipity' -- which I'll talk about a bit later.
'You've Got Mail' manages to be light, funny and entertaining-- yet also, it has real moments of conflict and emotion. The battle in the business lives of Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly really make for great rom-com storytelling; and Kathleen feeling the loss of her Mother and then going through it again as her shop closes gives Meg the kind of interesting backstory that was majorly missing in 'Sleepless...'
I think many people prefer 'Sleepless...' because it's more about fate. It's more about going to all the lengths needed to find your soulmate. I get that, I appreciate that-- but I think it makes for a boring film. It works in 'Serendipity,' I think, because John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale's characters know each other, and have got that link, y'know, the buzz. In 'Sleepless...' they don't have that. Even at the end when Hanks jumps on a plane to New York.. he doesn't do that to meet the girl, he does it to hunt down his son.
In 'You've Got Mail' though, two people do fall in love with each other. Through their words in their emails, and through the relationship that grows in the latter part of the movie over coffees, walks, and banter. I guess I just prefer that, I prefer that it's about the two characters rather than this airy feeling of fate. And as mentioned before; I think that is handled better in 'Serendipity' -- where their fate is driven by their need to find and be with each other. In 'Sleepless' it's just a desperate loon looking for a guy who's more interested in getting over his wife and looking after his son.
You've Got Mail will go down in film history as a completely average film; but it's one of my favourites. I think Nora Ephron completely nails what a rom-com should be; with two actors in their prime with some playful scenes and great dialogue to help them on their way. Ephron creates a version of New York full of meaning, romance and hope. I also think it's one of Tom Hanks' best performances to date. His natural subtlety and ease is masterful; with echoes of Jimmy Stewart (who was, of course, in 'The Shop Around The Corner,' which YGM was based on) -- he's at his most enjoyable. And unfortunately, we haven't really seen Hanks do fun since -- unless you count the dire 'The Terminal.'
Meg Ryan is far more enjoyable in 'You've Got Mail' -- in fact, she seems to get better as the years go by. I think her performances in 'Hanging Up' and 'In The Land Of The Women' are heartbreakingly truthful-- and I'd recommend you all to check them out (not if you're looking for a rom-com)
-Sam Baldwin, Sleepless In Seattle.
In summary; they're both classics in their own way. On a personal level; I'll go for 'You've Got Mail' every time. I've heard criticism of both films that they're 'not very realistic' -- my feeling of that is that, actually, people are too realistic. We create the world we want. If you want to be more romantic, be so-- the world will deliver.