Like Woody Allen, another hopelessly upper-middle-class, New York-obsessed writer/director with a built-in audience, Nora Ephron has made a career of flattering and pandering to her target demographic—in Ephron's case, soccer moms for whom cities are places to buy tchotchkes and get good coffee and bagels, Woody Allen films are the epitome of cinematic art, and Harry Connick Jr. is a perfectly fine substitute for Frank Sinatra—by assuring them of the cultural superiority of their lifestyles. In this respect, Meg Ryan is the perfect Ephron heroine, representing the soccer mom's idealized self-image: spunky, sassy, pretty in a wholesomely non-threatening manner, just a wee bit ditsy, and full of familiar quirks and gestures, all of which are doled out in rapid-fire bursts. Ryan stars in You've Got Mail as a spunky, gratingly adorable, doe-eyed small-bookstore owner whose business is threatened by a massive superstore owned by the family of Tom Hanks, who just happens to have fallen in love with Ryan via a string of semi-anonymous e-mails. Will these two highly paid movie stars leave their poorly developed lovers (Greg Kinnear and Parker Posey) and find true love somewhere beyond the capitalist battlefield? The answer should be obvious to anyone remotely familiar with the film's premise, but You've Got Mail takes almost two self-infatuated, smarmy, condescending, cringe-inducingly sentimental hours to reach its pre-ordained conclusion. Like Armageddon, another star-studded studio film that was crammed down the throats of every man, woman, and child in the Western hemisphere, You've Got Mail treats its audience like dim-witted children who view the world entirely through the lens of TV commercials, Hollywood movies, and bad stand-up comedy routines. The romance is both ploddingly obvious and woefully unconvincing, the comedy is alternately condescending and clueless, and You've Got Mail as a whole is atrociously, almost unwatchably saccharine, representing pretty much everything wrong with today's big-budget, high-concept Hollywood filmmaking.
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