I feel like so many womenfolk have their Nora Ephron movie, depending on how you grew up and also how old you were. While I love When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, my Nora Ephron movie is You've Got Mail. It's not her best, but it's certainly my favorite. I was 14 when it came out, on the eve of high school and pining for future adult relationships with all their beauty and messiness.
I wanted to be Kathleen Kelly so badly. Her cute haircut, her dream job (owns an independent children's bookstore, what's not to love?), her perfectly New York in the late 1990's wardrobe, and her very real trial and tribulations in love. Oh, and her apartment. Honestly, if I saw that her apartment was for sale for $10, I'd run away to New York City right now. For awhile in college, I tried to pull off a similar haircut to Meg Ryan/Kathleen, but grew tired of looking like I was a dandelion on fire.
Kathleen's cleverness and beautiful prose gave me something to aspire for. I wished I could be so observant and self reflect so well. I also wish I could write beautiful emails on fancy laptops (we had just gotten a computer and the internet about a year prior, so that was quite appealing). Sadly, 14-year-old me did not have the capability for that and spent too much time worrying about boys not liking her to craft beautiful email prose.
A sweet and nostalgic soundtrack of Harry Nilsson and Jimmy Durante, with a hint of Carole King, also made my heart soar. I very much so wanted to have that great NYC life and find myself walking every morning to work, chipper and with a coffee in one hand, all the while singing The Cranberries in my head.
Obviously none of that happened to me.
I read somewhere -- probably NPR -- that Nora Ephron captures the melancholy of your 30's in this movie well. Kathleen does not save her company and ends the movie unemployed and trying to figure out where to go next. The ideal deus ex machina of Joe buying her building and letting her run it for free, or finding her a new store, does not happen. Kathleen's longterm serious boyfriend leaves her for a news anchor (then again... she ends up with Tom Hanks, so it all works out). Meg Ryan is not as young and perky as she was a decade earlier. Kathleen's friends disappear, only to hear bits and pieces of their lives at their new jobs. She can't keep the gang together, just like the shop.
But ultimately, and this might be why I love Nora Ephron movies so much, love and happiness prevail. Kathleen and Joe court amongst coffee shops and farmer markets, until their "introduction" and plot payoff, to Harry Nilsson's beautiful and heartbreaking version of Over the Rainbow. It was a mess and hard to get to that point, but Kathleen got there. She got her happy ending. All while wearing an adorable cardigan and linen dress. All the bullshit she put up with at that point was worth it, as she tearfully melts into Joe Fox's arms.
And as I sit here, remembering Nora Ephron and this movie, I realize that she wrote the dream I have for myself, and I'm sure others have as well. I dream for a messy life with sadness and failures, with melancholy and disappointment. But that in the end, at the end of the day, there's love and happiness to make it all worth it. That the good person lives a good life and can be liked and valued. All while speaking beautifully and with punchy dialogue.
In closing, here is the ending of You've Got Mail, which always pulls at my heart strings and makes me misty. Thanks, Nora, for bringing 14-year-old me this movie: