You’ve Got Mail: Editing Review

30 Apr


You’ve Got Mail (1998) is a romantic film based in New York City about two people keeping a romanticized relationship through emailing each other, completely unaware of the fact that they both are actually present within each others life. This movie is based on the film, The Shop Around the Corner (1940) about a man and a woman who work together and can’t stand each other, who are actually falling in love with each other through their letters to one another. The characters of Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) and Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) are strong, and both likable in their approach. They do in fact, loathe each other as Joe is a tycoon for a mega bookstore that is going to stop out Kathleen’s children’s bookstore, called The Shop Around the Corner. This gives a shrewd angle to the story, but in its classic approach, this movie remains foolproof.

Within the time of this movie, we see two stories of two different people intermingle and connect, yet stay separate. Only the most appropriate times does the audience see this happen, most of the time just to add more chemistry, in order to ease the tension of opposition. Editor, Richard Marks, creates a perfect dynamic in this movie is sequence filled, set in the all-that-is-perfect places of New York City. Shots are used to create the environment for this updated film, but are also used to linger on the details of this film’s classic roots. This film uses voice-over, crosscutting and an easygoing rhythm that are used to create this inviting love story.

Voice-over, usually brought on by inner monologues, is a key factor for this film. It is used to individualize the audience’s views of both characters and are used to keep their stories separate. This is mostly used when we see the characters of Joe and Kathleen emailing each other. We hear their emails to one another, but usually during a sequence in which we see the characters react to what has been said. It is a factor in this movie, that keeps both of the sides balanced between likable and unlikable in order for the audience to remain neutral. We see Kathleen read an email from Joe giving her advice on how to deal with the competing bookstore in the neighborhood. We hear the email, and we hear and put in the back of our minds Joe’s point of view. This gives the audience the view that Joe really isn’t a bad guy, but a professional at what he does. This is kept in the back of our minds when we see Joe trying to defeat The Shop Around the Corner, Kathleen’s children’s bookstore. Even though we hate his actions and what he manages his animosity to Kathleen, we still appreciate Joe for who he is and the audience remains neutral. At the same time, voice-over is also used to keep the characters of Joe and Kathleen secretive to their counters. There relationship with one another is kept hidden away from their unknowing counters of boyfriend and girlfriend, whom they both live with. This shows that the relationship between Joe and Kathleen are both more important to them than their real life relationships, adding this unknowing, fairy-tale classic love to the movie.

Cross-cutting, by definition, is an editing technique most often used in films to establish action occurring at the same time in two different locations. The camera cuts between two different forces in the same shot or two actions happening simultaneously with two separate, but equal forces. Cross-cutting is used in this movie to keep the story of Joe and Kathleen connected even while they are apart. In the beginning, we see Joe and Kathleen start their day by checking their email, a voice-over narrative that plays while they both get ready for work and start their day. They each are walking through the same neighborhood, shown ending up in the same location, just at different times. Also, this technique is used to show opposition with both of the characters in order to compare their lives and show differences. For example, Kathleen has not had a lot of money, she has had a small family, and when she goes to her Christmas celebration, she is surrounded by her friends, having a very enjoyable time. When we see Joe, he is seen in comfort by his money, shown to have this hard, business-like demeanor all the time and at his Christmas celebration, we see him dying to break free from the egos and the narcissism of his family dynamic. This is how the background is formed and it sets a good base for the email exchanges, another example of cross-cutting, that happens in the movie. We see the two opposing forces of Joe and Kathleen come together, and for that moment in time we see two people connect and feel together, even though they are separate. Such as during the part in the movie where Joe has stood Kathleen up for their first meeting and he has no explanation. We see Kathleen upset at her message-less computer, waiting for an explanation. By this point, we are hoping for Kathleen and Joe to get together, so the audience is rooting for Joe to find a reason and connect with Kathleen. Cross-cutting not only strengthens opposition, but it can also be used to connect.

Rhythm, one of the most important of the editing techniques mentioned in this film, creates that perfect sense of time and pace that keeps the film moving and the audience happy. Because two forces are working to create one action, timing is used with most of the actions in the film in order to create the story and make executions perfect. The timing in this film mostly follows a pattern of written chance, but when the characters start becoming more and more aware of each other, the actions in this film start to become more organized and fruitful. The timing in this film is really used to create the audience’s expectation of what is going to happen next. An example of this would be the many coincidental meetings between Kathleen and Joe. Such as, when they are in a grocery store before Thanksgiving. Or, when they both arrive at the same party of a mutual friend. The characters themselves do not expect themselves to be meeting, but the audience creates this expectation, the dynamic is increased between their characters and the audience is now expecting them to be more connected, building that relationship throughout the movie. The use of shots within the film also add to the rhythm of the film. Shots within the film, when they involve the two main characters, show them standing together, away from everything else. We see their actions, their connection. The outside movement of the scene is a presence, but is does not effect that feeling of the situation. Most of the situations, in order to deal with time, always have an opposing force to the couple. Such as the want to talk to someone else in the scene or the need to do another task with a time limit. But, no matter what limitations, the couple of Joe and Kathleen are having their lives turned upside down by each others presence. It is changing their slowly patterned lives alone to this escalating action and a rift of change in both of them.

In conclusion, I find editing to be very important to the whole dynamic of the movie. The essential film experience is the way a film is put together. Editing changes the way an audience feels about a film. Due to the editing techniques in this film, You’ve Got Mail feels personal and simple. It creates a connection and comparison with two characters who find love. This film shows how love can prevail as the underlying power and connect the most unlikely of people as a whole, even though outside forces are resisting the urge to change opposition.


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