Do you hear that? That’s the sound of realizing, yes, you really are old and technology really has advanced to an unbelievable level, as You’ve Got Mail celebrates its 25th anniversary and waves of Gen-Alpha kids stare quizzically as you play them the AOL dial-up sound.
However, in the last two decades and some change, it seems like there are some things that haven’t changed that much, like the dating habits of New Yorkers (those are very much still online). In 1998, it was still a little bit radical to meet your partner on the internet, especially in a chat room, but today, when rewatching You’ve Got Mail, what we really noticed feels nearly unrecognizable is the Upper West Side, the price of apartments (duh) throughout the city, and Barnes & Noble’s reputation. Join the Cut staff on our 25th-anniversary rewatch of Nora Ephron’s classic enemies-to-lovers movie, starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, below.
Brooke Marine, deputy culture editor: The opening title sequence that has that digital survey of Manhattan kind of looks like proto Gag City.
Olivia Craighead, blogger: I was watching last night and was wondering whether or not that opening bit was like, a huge slay in 1998.
Brooke M.: It kind of felt like a slay for 2023, to be honest.
Jen Ortiz, deputy editor: Devastated to learn the original site for the movie is no longer up.
Katja Vujić, social media editor: I found it more reminiscent of Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood …
Brooke M.: Before we get into the Dave Chappelle jump scare of it all, which apartment would you rather live in: Shopgirl’s spot or the bachelor pad with Brinkley Fox?
Danya Issawi, fashion news writer: SHOPGIRL! The whimsy.
Katja: Shopgirl, obviously.
Olivia: I want to live in Steve Zahn’s six-room apartment that he’s paying $350 for in Brooklyn.
Brooke M.: The disdain for Brooklyn that was so prevalent in late-’90s media … almost made the movie feel more dated than the big-box takeover and gentrification of the Upper West Side, or the fact that they met online (which is obviously still relevant).
Danielle Cohen, staff writer: To me, the most outdated element is that a bookstore chain is the big bad corporate villain.
Jen: The big box of it all felt most dated to me, like was Barnes & Noble ever that nice? Did I miss out on big clean, cozy couches? Because I sat on the floor, which was a dirty rug.
Brooke M.: It was nice in the ’burbs!
Olivia: Nowadays, when I see a Barnes & Noble, I’m like, wow this is a site of real culture.
Katja: If they only knew about Amazon. But this is also Borders erasure.
Danya: Barnes & Noble is my comfort spot. Imagine a modern-day version where Tom Hanks is Jeff Bezos.
Jen: Omg and Parker Posey is Lauren Sanchez. Would donate to a GoFundMe to make this.
Brooke M.: Every time I watch this movie, I side more with Greg Kinnear …
Danielle: Greg Kinnear and Parker Posey’s characters should do the couple-swap thing.
Danya: Parker and Greg end up together in my head, and he cheats on her regularly with the TV woman.
Brooke M.: They need to play a couple in season three of The White Lotus. I can see it. Also, the Godfather references in this made me have a new appreciation for the Godfather jokes in Barbie. Men do be loving that movie. But so do I, to be fair. Especially the second one.
Danya: I’ve never seen The Godfather.
Katja: I’ve never seen The Godfather, either.
Danielle: I’ve also not seen The Godfather.
Danya: I love telling men that. And then walking away.
Katja: Tom Hanks’s impressions did not convince me I need to …
Brooke M.: Oh come on, would you rather they reference Apocalypse Now???
Danielle: Do we like Tom Hanks’s character? I’m not sure I do!
Danya: No! He’s insane.
Olivia: What he’s doing is definitely evil, right? If your friend told you that this is how she met her boyfriend, you’d be like, kill him.
Katja: He is bad. I think he’s kind of fucked up by his family dynamic, which doesn’t bode well for his future with Meg Ryan’s character! I also did not like the offhanded jokes he made about Yugoslavia and Bosnian refugees …
Jen: Poor little rich boy, please. He can afford therapy.
Brooke M.: This is why the movie is sort of a cautionary tale against online relationships. Not that it’s actually stopped any of us. I mean it really was prophetic! Also, since they end up together, maybe he could help her re-open her bookstore with his family money. I’m hopeful …
Danielle: I kind of like the untraditional family dynamics at play. It’s sweet! His dad is gross, but the family is nice.
Brooke M.: I’ve seen this movie countless times, but the stealth lesbianism of the nanny and the stepmom is something I had forgotten happens in the end.
Olivia: Okay, he’s bad, but also charming the whole time.
Danya: I love that Nora Ephron never hid her disdain for her ex-husband via the characters she wrote based on him.
Katja: He’s also a reminder that men weren’t required to be that hot in the ’90s.
Brooke M.: The hottest one here is obviously Chris Messina as the stoner bookstore clerk. I also loved that Jane Adams was in this for five minutes. And Sara Ramírez at Zabar’s. And Deborah Rush in the elevator!
Brooke LaMantia, editorial assistant: Get me in a bookstore NOW.
Olivia: I love Parker Posey in that elevator scene saying, “If we ever get out of here, I’m getting my eyes lasered.”
Katja: I love the scene when Meg and Greg are thrilled they don’t love each other.
Danielle: Incredible breakup. This movie makes me want to join the New York literati scene so badly.
Brooke M.: Watching this movie for the millionth time, I came to terms with the fact that I actually do not care about Shopgirl and Fox, and all I want is to find out what happens to Parker Posey the book editrix and Greg Kinnear the snobby Observer columnist.
Danya: I wanted to live in the UWS so badly while watching this.
Jen: I love how all ’90s pop culture took place on the UWS.
Brooke M.: Has anyone been to Cafe Lalo? I like it better than Serendipity.
Danielle: I went on a date there once in high school. It was nowhere near as romantic as it is in this movie.
Brooke M.: Did you bring a copy of Pride & Prejudice and prop it up on the table in the middle of the café with a rose?
Jen: Was Dave Chappelle there?
Brooke M.: I think we need to all watch The Shop Around the Corner, the original movie this is based on. James Stewart is the Tom Hanks character. Special TCM edition of Cut Chats …
Danielle: But what’s good about this movie is the exact era of early internet/peak publishing that it takes place in, so obviously 1940s would not work in that regard …
Olivia: Ew, if this movie happened today would they meet on Discord … no offense to gamers, of course. Do you think they get and stay married?
Brooke M.: I think they get divorced. None of the men in his family have lasting relationships.
Danya: I think they get divorced, but hopefully didn’t sign a prenup.
Olivia: Is this couple or the Sleepless in Seattle couple more likely to stay together? Mind you, in Sleepless in Seattle they do not know each other.
Brooke M.: Fox and Shopgirl stay together longer than the Sleepless in Seattle versions of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. And regarding the other famous Ephron couple invention, I like to think that Harry and Sally are together forever, like an old married couple who will never divorce. Or maybe they divorce and remarry. But they’re old and together now, in 2023.
Katja: Harry is also a dick, by the way.
Brooke M.: I like Shopgirl’s style better than the way Sally dresses.
Katja: Weirdly my favorite outfit was when she was sick. Those sweatpants were prefect.
Brooke L.: Shopgirl’s vibes were great! It made me want a custom hanky. But I would never share it. That was gross.
Brooke M.: Do Shopgirl and Fox ever have kids?
Olivia: She wants a daughter to twirl with! Which I always think is kind of stupid; it’s weirdly sentimental in a way that the rest of the movie is not.
Jen: Someone has to raise his uncle when his granddad dies.
Katja: The books are her children.
Brooke M.: Does this movie give you any hope about online dating?
Jen: I feel neutral, but less hopeful about apartment sizes.
Danya: My main takeaway isn’t about relationships, but more about money/living/apartments in New York.
Katja: I think it made me feel less hopeful about dating apps … more hopeful about Craigslist missed connections? Is that still a thing? And I’m jealous of people who grew up in New York.
Brooke L.: It made me want to read more.
Danielle: I agree, it gives me faith in retro-ish meet cutes online that are not in places designed to be dating. The lifestyle porn in this movie is unparalleled.
Jen: I’d rather have do-all-my-grocery-shopping-at-Zabar’s money.
Brooke M.: It made me want to be both Parker Posey and Greg Kinnear. Their characters, I mean. Stream the Parker Posey collection on Criterion Channel …
Olivia: Did you guys clock the framed New York Magazine cover of Parker’s character on the wall in Tom Hanks’s apartment?
Katja: I hope he leaves it up when Meg Ryan moves in.
Danielle: It says so much about the ’90s that books were so chic that an editor would be on the cover of New York.
Danya: Kind of rude of our significant others to have not done that with our articles already. BRB, starting a fight …