You've Got Mail | 1998
Following the huge success of Sleepless In Seattle, Nora Ephron re-teams Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in an e-mail-age updating of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 romance The Shop Around The Corner, transferred to New York’s comfy Upper East Side.
Indie bookstore owner Kathleen Kelly (Ryan), as ‘Shopgirl’, exchanges cutesy messages with the sweet-sounding ‘NY152’, blissfully unaware that behind the name lurks Joe Fox (Hanks), heir to the megastore chain threatening to put her out of business.
Apart from one major cheat, the film plays fair with its West Side setting. ‘The Shop Around The Corner’, where Kathleen devotes herself to selling children’s books, was a little cafe. But – wouldn’t you guess – it closed down, and the premises is now La Mode Organic Cleaners, 106 West 69th Street, at Columbus Avenue.
You might assume that Kathleen lives locally, but her apartment is 20 blocks north, at 328 West 89th Street, between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive.
Ignore the ‘152 Riverside Drive’ address – that’s simply to justify Joe’s online name – ‘NY152’ lives a mere four blocks north of her. His home is the side entrance, on West 93rd Street, of 210 Riverside Drive.
The one really big cheat is the ‘Fox & Sons Books’ megastore. Supposedly in the neighbourhood and thus a major competitor to Kathleen’s modest establishment, the store is way down on West 17th Street at 7th Avenue in Chelsea.
Both Kathleen and Joe frequent the same branch of Starbucks, 2252 Broadway at West 81st Street. This seems an odd choice or someone so concerned with large chains driving out local businesses.
Joe relates to Kathleen the anecdote about the bulk flour delivery to the bakery, where every night a ton of flour is pitched into underground tanks. It was H&H Bagels, which stood at 2239 Broadway at 80th Street, until closing in early 2012.
When Joe’s relationship with Patricia (Parker Posey) begins to fray, he moves out to live on the water at the 79th Street Boat Basin, 79th Street at the Hudson River – incidentally, the only place in New York you can moor your boat the year round.
Among other businesses patronised by both Kathleen and Joe is legendary West Side deli Zabar’s, 2245 Broadway at West 80th Street, where Joe manages to embarrass Kathleen by helping out when she finds herself in the cash-only line. Zabar’s has been around a long time – it pops up in Woody Allen’s 1979 Manhattan.
When it comes to meeting her mysterious correspondent, Kathleen makes an inspired choice, visually. The European-style restaurant festooned with fairy lights is Cafe Lalo, 201 West 83rd Street, at Amsterdam Avenue. Famous for its great range of indulgent desserts, the only fly in the ointment is the appearance of Joe Fox.
Another longstanding West Side favourite is ‘The Sturgeon King’, Barney Greengrass, 541 Amsterdam Avenue, at West 86th Street, where Kathleen remains upbeat, reassuring her friend Birdie (Jean Stapleton) that the area could become the new ‘Book District’. Greengrass has been serving smoked fish and its famed Jewish deli food since 1908, and has been at this address since 1929. More recently, the restaurant became the base of operations from which young Oskar Schell sets out on his expeditions in Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close.
And now a sad loss. The terrace cafe where Kathleen speculates unwittingly to Joe about her online friend was the luxury-liner style Ocean Grill, which for 18 years occupied 382 Columbus Avenue at West 78th Street, until closing in 2015.
As things between them begin to thaw, Kathleen and Joe meet up at Gray’s Papaya, 2090 Broadway at 72nd Street. Gray’s is famed for its hot dogs – the ‘papaya’ is a fruit drink accompaniment. You can see Gray’s in the background as Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson solve the ‘As I was going to St Ives...’ riddle in Die Hard With A Vengeance.
It’s hardly a spoiler to reveal that, yes, Kathleen and Joe get together at the end, with a kiss-and-make-up at the 91st Street Garden of Riverside Park.