The Belle of “You’ve Got Mail”

Ever since arriving back in Tuscaloosa last week, it’s been pretty glum weather-wise. Despite the rain, it’s at least been in the 70s, but that changed today. It’s been a dreary Monday, full of rain and 40-degree temperatures. I’ve spent most of the day curled up in my bed watching “Friends” and hanging out with my cat, Cooper.

While channel surfing one of my favorite movies was on, “You’ve Got Mail.” This movie had an immediate classic feel to it for me, Meg Ryan at the top of her game and Tom Hanks in one of his most charming characters. It’s got this classic feel to it, despite being full of everything 90s-from the technology to the clothing.

Maybe it’s the recent trip to Disney, but while watching Ryan’s character, Kathleen Kelly, close down her children’s bookstore, she reminded me of Belle. (Maybe it’s also from Sunday night’s Belle-centered “Once Upon A Time” episode, too.) “You’ve Got Mail” is a take on Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

Kathleen loves books and follows her mother’s footsteps in owning The Shop Around the Corner. She has followed her late mother’s footsteps and her life revolves around the book store she started. Her mother is described numerous times as enchanting, something that is not lost in Kathleen’s personality. The use of the word enchanted matches the enchanted rose in “Beauty and the Beast.”

For Kathleen, she is happiest when at the store and interacting with the children that come and visit, whether to buy a new book or to enjoy story time. The cozy feel of the store replicates that of Belle’s childhood home in the Disney movie.

One day, she unknowingly meets her business rival, Joe Fox, when he brings his aunt and brother for story time.  Unbeknownst to both of them at the time, the two have been exchanging emails since meeting on an over-30 chat room. (Remember those?)

As one of the owners of Fox Books, Joe is Kathleen’s modern day beast. His dark abode comes in the form of his father’s CEO office and the under-construction bookstore. His shrude businessman demeanor allows him no empathy for Kathleen’s struggling business. It also permeates into his social life, when he reduces her at a party when he tells her, “I am in the book business.”

Once Joe realizes Kathleen is the recipient of his emails, a slow change starts taking place. He becomes softer and more empathetic, offering advice to an unknowing Kathleen on how to help rescue her shop.

After closing the door to her shop forever, Kathleen wanders into the Fox Books store and reflects in the children’s section. While helping a customer and worker with the shoe books, Joe watches in secret. It is in this moment where the beast starts to transform into the prince. In the next scene, he brings a sick Kathleen daisies and their friendship begins to blossom.

It is Joe’s soon-to-be ex-girlfriend, Patricia, who is the Gaston of the movie. She is loud, straightforward and shrewder than Joe. Before breaking up, Patricia tells Joe Kathleen would make a great asset to her company as a children’s book editor. After closing the store, Patricia goes after Kathleen. Kathleen informs Joe of this when she lashes out at him when he drops in for a surprise visit. Joe takes her outburst in stride, with a care for her she has not recognized.

After acknowledging the past, the two begin “bumping into each other” in different places of the city. Their adventures together create a comfortable friendship that hints at the potential for a love interest, but their business differences and Kathleen’s email correspondent keep anything from blossoming.

That is the curse, being the owner of big-bad Fox Books that keeps Joe from Kathleen. He says so himself in the heartfelt speech he makes to her before revealing himself to her. He says if he had not been Fox Books and she had not been The Shop Around the Corner that he would have asked for her number.

But, the curse is broken in the final scene of the movie when Joe reveals himself to be Kathleen’s anonymous emailer. Joe and Kathleen have their happily ever after when she tells him “I wanted it to be you so badly” and the two seal it with a kiss in the middle of Riverside Park.

Dial-up Internet, actual books, chat rooms, a charming shop girl and a rough-around-the-edges businessman…it has all the signs of a 90s Beauty and the Beast…the unanimated version, that is.

Cooper staying warm on his heating pad

Cooper staying warm on his heating pad

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2 thoughts on “The Belle of “You’ve Got Mail”

  1. I like the title of your post, Meg Ryan is my favourite actress and your comparison with Belle is a good one. I would never have thought of that!

    Over 14 years after its release You’ve Got Mail is still as wonderful as ever. Thanks for the review.

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