Return To Sender

I used to be quite a fan of Tom Hanks until I realised that, while his movies aren’t exactly misogynistic, they’re definitely about the average-looking guy saving the day in some humble way and winning the stunning girl in the process. Such is You’ve Got Mail.

Hanks and Meg Ryan play Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly respectively. He’s the heir to a huge bookstore chain; she’s the owner of a small children’s bookstore who’s existence is threatened when Fox Books moves in next door. Antagonism ensues, and each to their best to bring the other down.

In the meantime, they’re falling in love online, without knowing who the other is, of course. When the arrange to meet and he realises who she is, he bails on her then makes a heartfelt but vague excuse. After sending her bankrupt, he sets about wooing her online and wooing her in real life – as two separate personas, his Joe Fox persona attempting to undermine his online persona, in what I assume was an attempt to make her fall harder for her online persona, thus falling in love with both of them.

The final scenes comes when they meet, and when she realises who he is, she says ‘I wanted it to be you’. Cue the kiss and closing credits.

Yeah, because if someone had sent me bankrupt, stood me up and lied to me, I wouldn’t ‘want it to be them’. I’d be bloody mad. Maybe – just maybe – if Joe had a decent enough explanation for his behaviour (which he didn’t seem to, beyond ‘isn’t that cute, Tom Hanks jerking Meg Ryan around when we all know he’s mad about her’) I would have calmed down after a while to listen, but I wouldn’t have kissed him there and then.

The sad thing is, I have a vague recollection of, when I first saw this, thinking ‘at least she doesn’t have to worry about not having a job, now she has a rich boyfriend’ – and that may or may not have been something TPTB meant to put across. If they meant to, then double shame on them.

Comments

  1. harlemjd says

    Totally agree about the difference in looks, and that he handled the situation badly (not sure how to handle that one well, so maybe a little forgiveness there, since he does tell her he fancies her and asks her not to go to the final meeting in the park).

    As for the financial aspect, he doesn’t send her into bankruptcy. She sells the store when it stops being profitable, but she still has her savings and the profits from the sale (it’s still UWS real estate, after all). And the movie makes a point of mentioning that she’s been offered a contract by a publishing company to write children’s books. (no mention of how much, but I guess we’re supposed to believe she’s getting a J.K. Rowling size advance, on the strength of her running a bookstore)

  2. says

    No matter whether he bankrupts her financially or not, he’s forced her out of doing something she loves. Which to me, is even worse.

    I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this movie for a long time. It was when a cousin of mine said that I reminded her of Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail that I really started seriously working towards becoming a children’s librarian.

    *******
    Me: “What?” (thinking I look nothing like Meg Ryan)

    Her: “You know. Especially that scene where the mom and kid (?) come up and ask her the name of that book and she not only knows it right away, but she’s knows the author’s name too?”

    Me: “Ballet Shoes….by Streatfield or something. Yeah. I remember that scene.” (mentally remembering that the other two are called Dancing Shoes and Theatre Shoes*) “Heh. Yeah.”

    *******

    For some reason, thinking of myself as like that character, rather than just a nerd who loved kid’s books, made me realize that what I knew and loved was useful and valuable. And I realized that I really loved what I was doing, I just needed to find a way to get paid more than retail peon wages while doing it.

    Yet, the whole point of the movie is try to and argue that what she does isn’t really all that important; that she’s better off doing something else so long as she has a boyfriend.

    I like working in the library (and I love the fact that I’m serving my community by doing so) and I actually do plan on trying to get a children’s book or two finished and bought within the next year……or two……but what I really wish I could do more than anything else is have a shop like the one that closes down in You’ve Got Mail. A shop like the one in my own town that has actually been doing just fine despite the big new B&N (the store I worked at for years) having opened up only a mile or two away.

    So yeah. There’s lots of love/hate for that movie in Mickle’s kingdom.

    *apparently there’s even more but those are the three that most stores carry.

  3. says

    I haven’t liked Tom Hanks for a long time. Nobody could possibly be as awesome as that man seems to think he is.

    Also, as problematic as the whole ‘Oh, you’re the guy who put me out of business! Take me!’ thing is, it’s not nearly as bad as the movie it’s based on, In the Good Old Summer Time. Watching a knockout like Judy Garland get wooed by Van Johnson, a man incapable of not sneering, requires massive suspension of disbelief. Besides that, the scenes where he’s actually trying to woo her, in person, while she still doesn’t know he’s her pen pal, are WAY creepy. Like, keep-a-hand-on-your-pepper-spray creepy. Also, I seem to recall that she breaks down and cries in front of him a lot, while he’s still her arch nemesis. At least they managed to keep Meg Ryan from doing that.

    Not trying to excuse You’ve Got Mail. I guess I’m trying to say that this remake is a considerable improvement on the last one, and that maybe the next remake (*sigh*) will even be bearable.

    And yeah–the part of the movie where she’s in bed and she starts mouthing off to him and he leans over her and puts a hand over her mouth to shut her up almost makes me jump out of my chair. I have a thing about my personal space.

  4. harlemjd says

    Thal – given that the original (Shop Around the Corner) was kind of cute (although that may be just that I was swooning from all the Jimmy Stewart), the next remake will probably suck monumentally.

    And, yeah, I would have sneezed right in his face with that “shh” nonesense.

    And Mickel – there’s like a dozen of the Shoes books. Got the whole set one Christmas – they’re great.

  5. scarlett says

    harlemjd, I haven’t seen the movie in its entireity in years so I believe you’re right about the not sending her bankrupt thing. But I didn’t find it particularly romantic that she fell for this man she had so much contempt for and there was no expectation of him apologising for his deceit. THat’s not romantic, that’s creepy.

  6. Maren says

    But I didn’t find it particularly romantic that she fell for this man she had so much contempt for and there was no expectation of him apologising for his deceit. THat’s not romantic, that’s creepy.

    Welcome to why I stopped watching anything classified as a “Romantic Comedy” years ago.

    Box-standard Plot:
    – Protagonist (male or female) falls for Love Interest
    – Either Protagonist or Love Interest do something reprehensible, usually involving massive lies, that no right-thinking person would let slide
    – Hilarity ensues.
    – Love blossoms out of abject hatred and we are all supposed to buy it.

    (this is why I happened to like the side bit in Stranger Than Fiction where Dustin Hoffman as the literary professor asks Farrell if a new woman in his life hates him, and says that would indicate he is in a Comedy)

    Then again… I suppose if the formula was good enough for Shakespeare I shouldn’t complain? At least Jane Austen pointed out that instantly forgiving the offender is ridiculous.

  7. Gategrrl says

    There’s a Romantic Comedy movie called “The Philadelphia Story” starring Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant and another woman in the B-romance. I wish I could remember her name. Anyhow. There was always something about that movie that rubbed me the wrong way, as if the underlying message was fine, BUT the assumptions as they were written went haywire.

    Hepburn’s character is a rich girl, divorced from her first husband (Cary Grant) in a vaguely Taming of the Shew plot. Stewart’s character is a reporter who’s there to report on her huge new high society wedding, accompanied by his female photographer. Stewart falls for Hepburn, while Hepburn’s ex, Grant, is hanging around.

    She realizes that Grant is treating her like a Real Person, and not up on a pedestal like Stewart’s character is, and her own fiance. And she also notices how the photographer is in love with Stewart, but is treated like just another coworker by Stewart.

    In the end, Hepburn ends back up with Grant, her exhusband, her fiance disappears, her little sister (the cupid) is happy as can be; and Stewart ends up with his photographer.

    It’s a comedy, and it’s a classic, and it’s not entirely typical. It feels as if someone took the original play and tried to twist it into a different story, but couldn’t quite get rid of the usual tropes or turn them on ends. I don’t especially like the movie, but I do enjoy the actors.

    Bringing Up Baby? Hee. Screw-ball, all the way. Everything is turned on it’s head in that one!

  8. scarlett says

    Have you seen How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days? I saw it when it was released at the cinemas and even then found it stupid, but whatching bits of it again on TV a few weeks ago… ALL the characters are thoroughly reprehensible, I’m not sure if it’s worthy of a post here or to be filed under the ‘everything about this sucks’ catagory :( Seriously, how is it romantic that BOTH of them are trying to humiliate the other?

  9. says

    harlemjd–I’ve never seen Shop Around the Corner. Maybe I should. I’ve always enjoyed watching Jimmy Stewart. Gosh, I guess the quality of the NEXT remake is even more up in teh air than I thought–this is getting interesting! *munches popcorn*

    And yeah, my little sister, who loves You’ve Got Mail? Yeah, she thinks that “shush” is creepy too. …Strange bird, she is.

  10. SunlessNick says

    Then again… I suppose if the formula was good enough for Shakespeare I shouldn’t complain? - Maren

    Oscar Wilde once said of the Taming of the Shrew that no man who considered himself a gentleman should be able to watch it without feeling ashamed. There’s also a theory that Shakespeare wanted men watching it to feel a but ashamed at Kate’s treatment (I don’t buy it myself; I think it’s a symptom of too much desperation to see Shakespeare as incapable of error. There’s also a similar theory about Merchant of Venice/Shylock).

    But I didn’t find it particularly romantic that she fell for this man she had so much contempt for and there was no expectation of him apologising for his deceit. THat’s not romantic, that’s creepy - Scarlett

    It’s an especially creepy trope of fiction that it’s romantic for women to be decieved and defeated.

  11. Angelica says

    I agree with pretty much all of the above. Although it might be misdirected, and maybe I should be more frustrated with the writers and casting directors, Tom Hanks bugs me for just this reason.
    For once could a movie depict the story a handsome man who falls for a completely mediocre looking woman simply because she’s brilliant? Or am I over-zealous, and ignorant to the tremendous suspension of disbelief that would require?
    I believe, or want to believe anyway, that somewhere out there exists a man who is capable of such a thing. Now that would be genuinely romantic.

  12. scarlett says

    For once could a movie depict the story a handsome man who falls for a completely mediocre looking woman simply because she’s brilliant? Or am I over-zealous, and ignorant to the tremendous suspension of disbelief that would require?

    I’ve seen this happen in real life, more than once, of a couple where the man is so much better looking than the woman and when you witness the dynamic of the relationship, you see that it works well. But apparantly it’s too much of a suspension of disbelief for this to happen on screen, athough we see it plenty of times where average-looking men are with gorgeous women.

    As I said in the poast, I used to be a huge fan of Hanks, but being part of this site has made me aware about how so many of his movies are about the average-looking guy winning a gorgeous woman. And you know what? Robin Wright, Helen Hunt, Bonnie Hunt and Meg Ryan all fit the ‘generically pretty blond’ moul and Catherine Zeta-Jones is, IMHO, absolutely stunning.

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