Oscar bait films can be effective; they prime you into being susceptible to big emotions and deeper meaning, but it’s rare (and therefore more special) when a piece of popular entertainment burrows into your heart and soul. The movie that has always done that for me in Nora Ephron’s 1998 romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail. It’s the type of movie that even its fans would classify as disposable, but it’s always meant more to me than that. Some of that is the film’s doing and other parts of it are circumstantial.
You’ve Got Mail was the first movie I ever saw on a date. I’m always going to remember how I strategically picked this movie to be the “date movie” because it was a romance and I wanted to elicit those feelings out of my date that evening. I was 16, so (as 16-year olds who don’t know what they’re doing do) we went to Applebee’s for dinner and I pulled such rookie moves as writing “left cash on table” on the tip line of the receipt (as if leaving money on the table itself wasn’t indicator enough). In hindsight, the date was very much me playing the part of my dad. My mom and dad would often go to “dinner and a movie” dates and that’s what I thought you were supposed to do.
You’ve Got Mail continued to be important to me during business school, too. The atmosphere was competitive and the edge I gave to myself was (and I’m not kidding) constantly asking myself “What would Joe Fox do?” Joe Fox is the male lead in You’ve Got Mail, played by Tom Hanks, and he had everything I thought I would need to become a success in business in my own life. He was cunning, he was personable and he had a good heart. Sometimes you hear a kid playing basketball imagines himself as the next Michael Jordan or LeBron James. Joe Fox was my career idol. After working for over 12 years, I realize how silly and again naïve that was, but now I get a good nostalgic tinge from that. My favorite realization is that being a successful businessperson has very little to do with just walking around with your best friend and not talking about work. Most scenes in You’ve Got Mail where they show Tom Hanks at work he’s just shooting the shit with Dave Chappelle. I might someday get to that level, but I’m certainly not there yet.
I hope all of you have a happy and safe Thanksgiving and thank you for your support and friendship over the years. I look forward to many more weeks, months and years of laughing, thinking and spending time together.