I'm not sure why my comfort movie is a film that is a two-hour advertisement for an internet service provider no one uses anymore. You've Got Mail is only fourteen years old, but world has changed so much. The war isn't about chains and indies anymore. Things that changed the face of publishing--Amazon, ebooks, Harry Potter--don't exist yet in the film.. Sure, the inspiration for Fox Books (Barnes & Noble) still provides challenges, but it's certainly not the untold champion anymore.
Only Starbucks is as ubiquitous on the Upper West Side today as it was shown in the movie. Even Kathleen Kelly, Meg Ryan's character, the defender of indie purchases her morning coffee there. Surely, the store she stops out bought out an independent café, but she doesn't consider this. As is proven by the end of the film, she cannot stop progress.
The love story between Joe Fox (Fox Books) and Kathleen (The Shop Around the Corner) is supposed to be Romeo-and-Julietesque. However, I find it bittersweet that, really, he--representing the corporate conglomerate-- gets it all. Progress, the film states, wins.
I do love that the film is a love letter to New York, where I want to live some day. It's a city for the generations. Of change, and of tradition.
And, here's the thing, in the non-fictionalized city, The Shop Around the Corner still stands. There is a children's bookshop, Books of Wonder, around the corner from the 18th Street Barnes and Noble. The independent bookstore isn't dead. I like to think it's resurfacing. Sometimes tradition can win over, something I think the film tried to portray, but forwent in favor of the plot arc.
You've Got Mail came out when I was nine. I remember seeing it in theaters (Mom is a big Sleepless in Seattle fan), but I really fell for it while I was studying at Oxford. I loved the anonymous online letter writing, something I don't think could happen on today's Interwebs. It takes me back to the dial-up days (oh the nostalgia in that sound), and makes me wonder if I have modeled my life, my children's book love, on Kathleen. But most of all, I think it gives hope that in these days of exponential progress--while I play spot the out-of-date tech in a fourteen-year-old film--there could be someone out there to guide me. To be a constant when nothing else is.