I’ve always thought You’ve Got Mail was ripe for the remake treatment — not because I think there are any actors who could embody Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox better that Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, but because there’s so much about the movie that would look different in 2018. For one thing, Fox & Sons megabookstore wouldn’t be sitting so high and mighty anymore thanks to a little company called Amazon, and Kathleen and Joe certainly wouldn’t be wandering into chat rooms when they hang out on the internet. Sure, email is as prevalent as ever, but there are so many other ways our protagonists could bump into each other in the digital world. Their correspondence would be spread across dating apps and social media posts, anonymous in the sense of how we present ourselves online versus how we are in in real life. Would it, in the end, really be that different?
Take Instagram, for instance. Tell me Kathleen “bouquet-of-sharpened-pencils” Kelly wouldn’t be all over that as a place to not only document the things she sees out and about on the Upper West Side, but also to express the many whimsical happenings in her day that were previously contained in private emails, like when she spotted a butterfly on the subway.
“Once I read a story about a butterfly in the subway, and today I saw one,” she wrote in the film. “It got on at 42nd and off at 59th, where I assume it was going to Bloomingdales to buy a hat that will turn out to be a mistake, as almost all hats are.” Now tell me that wouldn’t earn at least 100 likes on the grid.
But the most essential update that a 2018 imagining of You’ve Got Mail would be to axe email entirely. C’mon, don’t you want to see what Kathleen and Joe would write on their dating app profiles? What Joe’s opening line would be (please something better than “hey”)? What photos Kathleen would include on her page? It’s too fun to resist, so of course, we made them.
Now, I know what you’re saying: These dating app profiles have photos! It would ruin the premise of the movie! Hush —“ruin” is a strong word. I still think there’s an equal amount of territory to explore if Kathleen and Joe spend months chatting back and forth, only to meet in real life under these totally antagonistic circumstances. How would they square the person in front of them with the person they’ve been sending rose emojis to for the past year? Or maybe, even, they don’t recognise each other, since, let’s be honest, the photos we put on our dating profiles never truly match up.
I’m not Nora Ephron, and I wouldn’t dream of taking her words and turning them into something unrecognisable — unless, of course, Hanks, Ryan, and the rest of Hollywood was on board. But until they get back to me, we have our imaginations instead. What matters is that, 20 years later, You’ve Got Mail is still a movie the world turns to when they need the on-screen equivalent of a warm hug, or just to hear Hanks yell the words, “I was eloquent. Shit.” May we all swipe right in hopes of finding a Joe Fox of our own.