Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Going Shopping: Grade B

Going Shopping (2005)
Victoria Foyt, Lee Grant, Mae Whitman. Cowriter and director: Henry Jaglom.

This extremely low budget indie explores shopping obsession among women. The owner of an upscale clothing store in Beverly Hills (Foyt) discovers she is broke and about to be evicted from the shop. Her boyfriend apparently stole her money, but that topic is not explored. The point is she is broke, so she plans a big Mother’s Day sale to raise money to make rent and postpone eviction. She is also a single mom and her preteen daughter (Whitman) is rebellious, but nevertheless steeped in the culture of fashion, clothing, and lookism. The shopkeeper's mother (Grant) is a California granny determined to look 20 years old forever, who hassles her but eventually helps out in a surprising way that should have been the narrative theme of the movie, but is only a throwaway.

The women shoppers are California youth-worshipping, age-denying, more-money-than-brains stereotypes. Foyt tries to borrow from a very nice but utterly ruthless mobster, in one of the most entertaining scenes, and tries to enlist a capital partner, among many ploys to raise the cash. Liberally interspersed are dozens of 60 second interviews with women who explain various aspects of their shopoholic obsession directly to the camera. These are well acted and the women have interesting faces, but since we know it is all scripted, it is not particularly convincing or revealing. There are pathological shopping obsessions, but there is no reason to believe they look like this. As a psychological exploration, a documentary approach would have been better. As it stands, the social commentary about female shopping verges on misogyny. The movie has no narrative drive so feels much longer than its 106 minutes. The big sale is a success, the shopkeeper pays the rent, but now has no inventory, and still no money, so the McGuffin remains essentially unaddressed. The film thus fails as a narrative and as a social commentary, leaving only good acting, satirical visuals and dialog, attractive actors, and bright sunny California colors, all of which are enjoyable in a mindless sort of way.

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