So I mentioned Kathleen owns a small children's book shop called The Shop Around the Corner. It used to belong to her mom, but Kathleen took over when her mom died...whenever that was as we're not given a definite time when this happened. Since it only caters to children (and probably only children to a certain age because I didn't see any young adult novels in there, though maybe there were) it's a very niche shop. It is a very charming little shop and feels very cozy and homey. Kathleen is very personable with her patrons and knows many of them by name. She has story hour and just makes sure everyone who comes to her store has a good experience. The only thing people might gripe about on their Yelp page might be the prices because they tend to be a little higher than what you would find at a chain bookstore.
And speaking of chain bookstores...Joe's father (Dabney Coleman) owns a chain of Barnes and Noble clone bookstores called Fox and Sons and they're opening on on the Upper West Side which isn't too far from The Shop Around the Corner. (In fact, I'm pretty certain where they filmed was a B&N). Joe tells his friend/employee, Kevin (Dave Chappelle), about their customers: "We're going to seduce them with our square footage, our discounts, our deep armchairs and our cappuccino."
Joe's dad is getting married again. The "again" implies that he's been married quite a few times. The woman he is marrying, Gillian, is quite younger than him as they have a four-year-old son together. They've been living together for five years. At this point, why even bother getting married? So a thirty-something man has a four-year-old brother. Granted, it's his half-brother, but still, that's odd. The whole thing with Joe's unusual family situation doesn't really add anything and doesn't need to be in the movie.
I had to chuckle during a scene where we see Kathleen on the subway and she's reading a book as are some of the other people around her. No way this would happen now; most people would be on their phones! I say that even though I would be someone with a book.
And speaking of Fox Books, Kathleen and her employees see the building where they have painted "Fox Books Coming Soon" ON THE BUILDING. Why did they paint that on the building? Why not just make a sign? They're just going to have to paint over the letters.
We get a montage of NY152 and Shopgirl (aka Joe and Kathleen) exchanging cutesy little stories and insights. We see Joe attempting to read Pride and Prejudice as we hear a voiceover from Kathleen telling him she's read it 200 times (200 times? That seems like overkill.) She tells him that she gets "lost in the language" and we see Joe looking really bored and flippantly toss the side aside. I'm on Joe's side here. I've never read Pride and Prejudice. I once tried to read Wuthering Heights. Boy, that didn't last long. I think I read the first chapter, then was like, Nope, not for me. But when Kathleen tells him, "Read it. I know you'll love it," he throws up his hands in defeat and reaches for the book which he does read. I'm not really sure why Kathleen thinks he'll love it. I guess they've had enough discussion about books for her to come to that conclusion.
The day Joe meets Kathleen (without knowing she's the one he's been corresponding with, obviously) is the day he spends with his four-year-old half-brother, Matt. Also along with them is Annabel, the daughter of his grandfather, who is probably around ten. What the heck is up with this family? They sure like to have children when they are old! Gillian brings the kids to him along with the nanny in case he couldn't handle them, but he tells the nanny to take the day off. Gillian tells Joe to kiss her because she's going to be his "wicked stepmother" and as he hesitantly kisses her on the cheek, she turns her head so they're kissing on the lips. I thought she was making a pass at Joe because she is closer in age to him than she is to Joe's father, and let's face it, she's only getting married to Mr. Fox because he's worth a lot of money.
Afterwards, Kathleen is showing Annabel some books. She assumes Joe is her dad, which, I can't blame her, because I would probably think the same thing. I would not think that this little girl is the aunt to this grown man, but that is what she tells Kathleen.
When Joe asks who she is, she tells him her name and that she owns this store. When she asks who HE is, he just replies, "Joe. Just call me Joe." This won't be the first non-truth that he keeps from her!
The Fox bookstore has been opened for six days and Kathleen learns that they did $1200 less than the same week last year. Her young employee, Christina, is worried they will have to close and she will never be able to find another part time job and won't be able to pay her rent and will have to move to Brooklyn. I have so many questions: Where does she live now? And does she have another job? Because surely she can't afford anything in Manhattan if she's working part time at a children's book store unless Kathleen is super generous with the salary. Also, I'm sure it wouldn't be that HARD to find a part-time job....there must be thousands of them in NYC. Of course, I don't live there, so what do I know? Also, when she mentions she'll have to move to Brooklyn, she says it with such disdain dripping in her voice. I guess this was before Brooklyn became a cool place to live.
Later that evening, Kathleen e-mails NYC152 to vent to him about Joe (which is hilarious since she is talking to Joe), but of course she's being as vague as possible so he doesn't even have a clue she's actually talking about HIM. When he replies back, he asks her if she thinks they should meet and Kathleen responds by closing her laptop.
We then get a montage of either Kathleen seeing Joe everywhere she goes and trying to avoid him or Joe seeing Kathleen everywhere he goes and trying to avoid her.
Kathleen emails NY152 and tells him she wishes her mother was still alive so she could ask her for some advice and Joe replies and ask if he can help. When Kathleen is about to reply, she gets an IM from Joe who tells her he had a feeling she would be online. (Um, if I remember right, you can see when someone is online unless they have you blocked or something. It's not like you're blindly sending them an instant message and guessing that they're online). Anyway, this seems to be the first time they're chatting live. She tells him her business is in trouble and he replies that he's a "brilliant businessman" and that he can help. When he asks her what she does, she refuses to tell him since they had both agreed on "no specifics." Obviously, this is done for plot purposes. Haha, can you imagine if she had told him she owned The Shop Around the Corner and he realized he was talking to Kathleen? But it's not time for either of them to realize who the other really is yet.
So she vaguely tells him the problem and he tells her she "needs to go to war". Basically he writes a three paragraph essay on IM; doesn't he know that's what emails are for? I almost wanted to type out the entire thing he wrote to her, but that would take way too long and I didn't want to bore you with the details. (There were a lot of references to The Godfather). He writes her, "It's not personal, it's business" and tells her to recite that until she's all psyched up.
She asks Frank if he could write something about the store and he does. After his article comes out, people start picketing in front of Fox and Sons with signs that read "Bigger isn't better" and "Put socks in Fox" (eh, I feel like that one's kinda stretching it). They chant, "1, 2, 3, 4 we don't want your superstore, 5, 6, 7, 8, go away and close the gate."
Ever after all this publicity, there hasn't been any difference in Kathleen's store's sales. So she e-mails NY152 to tell him she needs help and ask if he still wants to meet. They really hadn't talked about meeting since he had asked her earlier and she just ignored his comment about it. So now this is when the movie starts to get interesting. They're finally going to realize who the other person is and that they actually hate each other in real life! Ruh-roh! So they agree on a time and place to meet.
|Cafe Lalo -|
they serve killer coffee!
Of course she e-mails NY152 to tell him she went to meet him but he wasn't there and she felt foolish and wishes she knew why he wasn't there. I feel like if this happened in real life, the person who was stood up wouldn't even contact the person who stood them up because, odds are, they wouldn't even reply. She tells him while she was waiting for him, "a man who has made my professional life a misery" showed up, and, "for the first time in my life, when confronted with a horrible, insensitive person, I knew exactly what I wanted to say and I said it." She writes him this because they have had conversations about this. She had told him when she is provoked by someone she doesn't like, she gets tongue tied and her mind goes blank, then she "spends all night tossing and turning, trying to figure out what [she] should have said." She tells him it was the first time in her life she was able "to say the exact thing [she] wanted at the exact moment [she] wanted to say it. She goes on to say she she felt terrible afterwards and pretty much apologized to Joe without realizing it.
When Joe receives this e-mail, he thinks of an excuse as to why he wasn't there and starts typing things like he was out of town or he was stuck in a meeting and the electricity went out and he couldn't get out of the building. This scene drove me absolutely crazy because every time he would delete something, instead of highlighting the section he wanted to delete and pressing the "delete" button, he would press the backspace/delete key several times to delete the individual characters he had just typed! UGHGHGHGH! That was so irritating! WHY do people own a computer if they don't know how to use one??
After taking ten minutes to delete everything, he starts over and writes, "Dear friend, I cannot tell you what happened last night." (Oh, yeah, that doesn't sound shady at all!) He continues to say he feels terrible she found herself in a situation that caused her "additional pain" and that he will "explain everything" someday. Why not just come clean right now? I think the longer he waits, the worse it's going to be. At least, in theory.
The movie takes a surprisingly realistic turn when Kathleen finally realizes she needs to close her store. I honestly was expecting her to come through and "win" and be able to keep her store. It is very sad when she has to close it. She puts a sign on the door which reads, "After 42 years, we are closing our doors. We have loved being part of your lives." Now, ironically, Fox and Sons Bookstore would be closed (probably not too long after Kathleen's shop closed) because Amazon would be taking over. So suck it, Joe Fox!
For some reason, she goes to the children's section at Fox Books. I guess to make herself even more depressed. No, the reason for this scene is for Joe to observe her. While she's there, someone comes up to a guy who is working and asks him about a certain book he can't find but the employee has no idea what he's talking about. Kathleen, overhearing all this, gives them her expertise.
Joe also breaks up with his girlfriend and moves into his boat. Because apparently he can't afford an apartment? They sure tied up Kathleen and Joe breaking up with their significant others into a nice little bow, didn't they? We also found out Joe's dad broke up with Gillian. She ran off with the nanny, of all things. I was so confused by this because throughout the movie it seemed like she was coming onto Joe. There was the scene where she tricked him into kissing her on the lips. There's also another scene around Christmas where the entire family is listening to Annabel sing Christmas carols and Gillian sits next to Joe on the couch and starts massaging his thigh! Like, what the hell? This prompts Joe to get up and the nanny sits in his spot. I guess you could say that was a ruse to get Joe to leave so the two secret (very secret, as this came out of left field!) lovebirds could sit together.
Okay, I mentioned earlier that Dreams is the only good song in this movie. I totally forgot that Signed, Sealed, Delivered plays while Joe goes to Kathleen's apartment to bring her flowers. And not just any flowers, but daisies! Aha! That scene with the daisies on the handkerchief has finally paid off! Joe is bringing her flowers because he heard she was sick (from who?). He rings her buzzer and she doesn't want him to come in. Even if they were on good terms, I doubt she would want him to come in because when you're sick, the last thing you want is to socialize! You just want to stay in bed and sleep! Even though she has adamantly told him she doesn't want him to come in, he does anyway when someone is leaving the building. Kathleen is in her pajamas and she's got Kleenex everywhere and is eating soup. Joe tells her he wants to be her friend and wants to know what happed with the guy at the cafe. Obviously, he knows what happened! He seems to have a sick pleasure of messing her this way. She replies "nothing" and affirms she is crazy about him. But why? Why is so so head over heels about this guy she's never met and (as far as she's concerned) stood her up? It doesn't make sense to me. Joe suggests that she should meet him. Oh, really, Joe?
Kathleen agrees with Joe (for whatever reason; I know, I know, it's all part of the plot) and later e-mails NY152 to tell him she wants to meet him and he agrees and replies, "I'm in the middle of a project that needs tweaking" and they will meet after that. Of course, his project is to groom Kathleen to make her fall for him and get info about her conversations with NY152, to see her side of things. He gets Kathleen to tell him what NY152 wrote to her and he suggests that he might be married. She doesn't believe this at all, but he's all, "Oh, are you sure?" and this makes her write to NY152 to ask if he's married and he replies with something like, "I can't believe you would ask me something like that" and never gives her a yes or no answer. Aurgh, at this point he is just messing with her for his own amusement. I honestly don't understand what the point of all of this is except for him to be an a$$h0le.
We find out that Kathleen is working on a children's book and she tells Joe that that NY152 was the one who got her thinking about writing, so you know he felt pretty smug when she told him that!
Kathleen mentions that they keep bumping into each other (because he is low-key stalking her, it's all part of his plan) and Joe suggests that they "bump" into each other on Saturday, knowing full well that Kathleen can't meet with him because she's already made plans to meet with NY152 that afternoon at Riverside Park. Joe suggests he mights be a "westside" and Kathleen says, "Maybe I've seen him and don't even know it" and Joe replies, "You could have seen him every day and not know it. He could be anybody." At this point, I'm wondering if Kathleen is beginning to suspect it's him. We get no real evidence that she might.
Joe tells her this guy has great timing and has waited until he's convinced "that there's no other man that [she] could possibly love" and proceeds to tell her that if he wasn't who he was or she wasn't who she was (basically if they had different careers that didn't conflict with each other's), then he would have asked her for her number and took her on a date. He also wants to know, "How can you forgive this guy for standing you up, and not forgive me for putting you out of business." Yeah, I might be annoyed if someone stood me up, but if it was someone I had never met before, I probably wouldn't be as annoyed if it was someone I had an established relationship. I think someone taking your business and your means of making a living is way worse than some rand-o standing you up. She doesn't even answer him; just tells him she has to go.
During this scene, I thought the movie might go in a different direction. I thought she and Joe might have a long, serious talk and Joe would confess his feelings for her and she would decide he was the one for her and just stop communicating with NY152 altogether. At this point, it seems like too much time has gone by for Joe to reveal he is really her pen pal without her getting ticked off. I don't know what you would do in a situation like this. If you started a relationship with a person who didn't know you were the one they were talking to online, would you tell them or just let it slide? However, this movie knows that their audience wants Kathleen to find out who NY152 is so it's not surprising it ends the way it does.
And they lived happily ever after. Until Fox Books went under because of Amazon. Yeah, this movie infuriated me how Joe was pretty much messing with Kathleen the last third of the movie and she seems to be okay with it when it's revealed he's NY152. Also, the weird subplot with his soon-to-be stepmother didn't need to be in there at all.
So I found this wild fact when I was cruising through the movie's IMDb page. I don't know if any of it is 100% accurate because I know nothing about computers from 1997, let alone how much they would cost, but this blew my mind:
Joe is using an IMB Thinkpad 770 series, which had a retail price of $6,900 in 1997 dollars. Kathleen is using an Apple PowerBook G3 250, which had a list price of $5,700 in 1997 dollars.
Good lord! I can't imagine paying $6-7 thousand dollars for a laptop in any year's money! Apparently, $7,000 in 1997 is equivalent to nearly $13,000 in today's money. WTF? That seems insane! Is that even right? Basically I got my iMac, my MacBook, and my phone all for less than what Joe paid for his stupid clunky-ass laptop in 1997! Good thing he's a multi-millionaire!!