A Tribute to Nora Ephron: Why I Love You’ve Got Mail

Yes, I know. This tribute is very, very belated. Nora Ephron passed away in June. But at the time of her death I was just not paying attention. Of course it doesn’t actually matter if I was paying attention or not, unlike the ladies of Sarcasm Soapbox I am not known internationally, but her movies made such on impact on my life that I’ve been wanting to write a piece about it for a while now. And lucky for me I’m friends with these two sarcastic women.

I have watched You’ve Got Mail about a billion times and can quote the movie word for word.In fact You’ve Got Mail has provided me with quotes for every single situation. Of course I can never actually say them out loud because no one understands my references. For example, I could have inserted at least two quotations in the paragraph above. Let me insert one now. The movie cites “one of the twentieth century’s most profound truths” is “you are what you read.” Perhaps, I would amend, one of the twenty first century’s most profound truths is you are what you watch. Nora Ephron’s films have certainly been that for me. I can trace memories of watching You’ve Got Mail through childhood, teenage years, and now adulthood. And it was always relevant and meaningful every single time I watched it.

Of course, there have been times that You’ve Got Mail ruined my life (well, that’s a bit dramatic), mainly in the area of my love life and having unrealistic expectations. I tend to get way too attached very quickly when it has anything to do with letter writing in any form, to the point that I have given it up completely (can we talk in person and make this all based entirely in reality, please?) I also knew a guy who had watched You’ve Got Mail nearly as many times as me. That does not mean anything, people! Here I have to quote a line from (500) Days of Summer, “Just because [they] like the same bizzaro crap you do doesn’t mean [they’re] your soul mate!” Seriously, find out if they’re actually cool first.

In a history of very few female directors, Nora Ephron’s films should be noticed, not merely as “chick flicks” or “rom coms” but as intelligent, funny, and tender films about the human experience. Of course, all movies have flaws and perhaps Ephron’s could be the use of the classic white heteronormative stories. What I would say to that however, is that her movies are not just about white straight people, they’re about human connection and experience, something that transcends categories. It’s the same thing with Jane Austen, if I may be so bold as to compare the two (indeed, You’ve Got Mail is partly based on Pride and Prejudice). Sure, Austen’s novels are set in a very particular setting with a set of very particular characters, ie. wealthy White British people during the 19th century. However, her novels so perfectly capture human behaviour with intelligence and humor as to make them beloved across generations and nationalities.This is especially apparent when you think about all the ways in which Austen’s novels have been recreated and reimagined. Not just You’ve Got Mail, but Bride & Prejudice, a classic Bollywood remake, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith.

Coincidentally, You’ve Got Mail has also been rethought in a similar way, being picked up most recently by Mindy Kaling in the pilot of her new show The Mindy Project (read here about Mindy’s love of the film, written 2 years before her show).  It doesn’t matter that Mindy Kaling and Meg Ryan look nothing alike (honestly, it feels stupid to even point it out), because their characters are looking for the same thing, the same thing we all are, to be understood. But by far my favourite reference to You’ve Got Mail has got to be a scene from Undeclared, Judd Apatow’s similarly ill-fated follow up to Freaks and Geeks, when Seth Rogen admits his favourite movie is You’ve Got Mail and says “you think you’re better than it but then you watch and it becomes a part of you, it’s in you.” Frankly, Seth I could not have said it better myself.

Some people don’t believe in reading a book or watching a movie a second time, let alone a hundredth. I don’t understand these people. If you are one of those people can we try an experiment right now? Close your eyes and imagine the softest, coziest blanket you can and then imagine the greatest friend you’ve ever had. Ok you can open them. Well that feeling is what you get from rewatching or rereading your favourite movie or book. When I watch You’ve Got Mail it’s like coming home. It is a wonderful feeling and one not to be taken for granted. So even though You’ve Got Mail may not end up making you feel all warm and fuzzy inside  (maybe you’ll even hate it!), it remains one of my favourites and I’m so grateful Nora Ephron was around to create such a wonderful film and inspire others (like me) to do them same. So to Ms. Ephron, I say in the words she wrote, “All this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings…so thanks.”

Ok, I’m going to go watch it again…

~ Nicole

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2 thoughts on “A Tribute to Nora Ephron: Why I Love You’ve Got Mail

  1. […] for a special Triple-Post Thursday treat, we bring you our lovely friend Nicole once again, who really just wanted to share her love of attractive, well-dressed, presumably kind-hearted […]

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