Cinema Signal:

Call of the Mall:
Why We Buy

. "Going Shopping"

In case you haven't appreciated the role shopping plays in women's lives, Henry Jaglom, with wife, co-writer and lead Victoria Foyt, ("Last Summer in the Hamptons") are here to explore every microscopic and macro economic aspect of the syndrome. They do this, in part, by intercutting a veritable girl's choir of veterans and victims of the disorder laying their more than ample chests bare over a practice that's just going rampant.

The femme witnesses are in dire confession mode before the camera, as they define the act of shopping as everything but a diuretic. It's therapy, a spiritual act, a placebo, a compensation, a thinly veiled identity modifier, and an obsession that could involve costs beyond the price tags.

To Holly G. (Foyt), who runs a boutique that these ladies flock to in their hours of need, it's a business that's not doing so well. Not because her designs aren't good, nor that traffic is so bad. It's Adam (Bruce Davison) her boyfriend, you see, who has been entrusted with the books and has been doing a little cooking.

In the first scene of the movie, he buys a pricey watch for Holly. No cost is too great for his lady, but could it also have something to do with his not paying the rent for 3 months? One of the next visitors at the shop is Holly's landlady who, while admiring the merchandise, wonders how Holly could be planning a sale on the weekend when her eviction is for Sunday. Uh oh.

As though the sudden need to secure a loan at any cost weren't enough, teenage daughter Coco (Mae Whitman) has disappeared after threatening to install a ring in her navel in order to impress her boyfriend and keep up with her friends. Holly forbade it and is now frantically trying to reach her missing tot. And Holly's relationship with her mom, Winnie (Lee Grant) doesn't alleviate her anxieties. Holly will just have to rely on her own fortitude to cope with the multiple disasters.

And so we have the foundation of Jaglom-angst.

For the most threatening of her troubles, she undertakes a loan with a mobster shark whose idea of a fair "vig," (doesn't like to use the word "interest") could do away with the national debt if he were put in charge. But, before her problems bring her to a state of full depression, she meets hunk Miles (Rob Morrow) whose gorgeous girlfriend is just not on the same wavelength as he is. So he takes advantage of the mismatch by ending it and putting moves on our aging, bedgraggled shop owner.

Her script and hubby Henry Jaglom's busy direction develops the feel of a sometimes improvisatory mockumentary and invests it with spontaneous airiness. But the weight of neurotic anxiety and overdone shopper angst drags it dangerously close to tiresome. There are some laughs, a strain to provide an element of drama, filler material to draw it out and, in the end, the comedic boutique framework is a bit understocked.

The setting appears to be Beverly Hills and/or Santa Monica. Montana Avenue is mentioned, but a dialogue reference to the actual location of the main set, Holly's shop, is bleeped out with a couple of car horns during a dialogue reference ("Savannah is the most expensive shop in -bleep- -bleep") and made me wonder what they were hiding and why. Do they owe some rent?

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Mae Whitman, Victoria Foyt and Lee Grant
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