By Jeffrey M. Anderson
Director Henry Jaglom (Eating, Déjà Vu) has worked for 35 years in Hollywood, or at least on its fringes. He is said to be intelligent and well liked and counts among his peers Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty and even the late Orson Welles. But one suspects that Jaglom's films are less appreciated or anticipated than they are merely tolerated.
His latest film, Going Shopping, is a case in point. Many reviewers have weighed in with kind, but bored responses to this incredibly tedious and gruesome affair. But the truth is that it's one of the year's absolute worst. Actually going shopping and sitting for two hours while someone else tries on clothes would be far less torment.
Going Shopping begins with a series of testimonials. Women speak to the camera about their shopping habits, making some vague attempt to explain or dissect them, but never actually reaching any revelations.
Shortly thereafter, we meet Holly G. (Victoria Foyt -- who co-wrote the screenplay with Jaglom), the owner of a Hollywood boutique that sells her hand-designed fashions.
Thanks to Holly's selfish boyfriend (Bruce Davison), who failed to pay her rent but also failed to tell her about it, Holly's shop is about to close down unless she can come up with a huge chunk of money. (She learns this while her landlady is shopping!) She asks her friends for money and even goes to the mob before resorting to (gasp!) a 30% off Mother's Day sale.
Holly's teenage daughter (Mae Whitman) and goofball mother (Lee Grant) are also on hand for more tears and drama. Meanwhile, Miles (Rob Morrow) is fed up with his girlfriend, who exchanges every gift he gives her. He falls for Holly and causes a mini-drama on the shop's tea-cozy terrace.
In the midst of this interminable experience, women pour into Holly G's shop and constantly say things like "I love that brooch" or "I love those shoes!" as if they believe they're making some kind of connection. It's hard to muster up enough sympathy to care.
This goes double for guys, but women should also consider their options before buying tickets for Going Shopping. Jaglom only portrays a particular brand of neurotic, painted and plasticized Hollywood woman that most real people won't recognize.
Moreover, he lights and photographs them in such a way to make them look like beasts. They leer at the camera, as if threatening to suck your wallets dry. Not even the beautiful Juliet Landau (who played Drusilla on TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") can overcome Jaglom's unflattering lens.
For some reason, Jaglom shoots Going Shopping in a kind of "cinéma vérité" reality, not unlike Robert Altman's style, but without his craftsmanship or artistic mastery. So when Italian gangsters show up or crowds of nattering women wave their credit cards at Holly G's cash register, it comes across as preposterous rather than amusing.
One thing saves the movie from complete disaster, and that's Lee Grant. An Oscar-winner for Shampoo (1975), Grant has lived this Hollywood life for 75 years, and she knows where the humanity lies within. Even if her character, named "Winnie," is unrepentant and annoying, Grant does an admirable job in bringing some silly glamour to the table.
Grant has logged over half a century in movies, while Jaglom lags nearly 20 years behind her. Even so, that should have been enough time for him to figure out how to make a movie. Perhaps his friends should stop being so nice and give him some tips before he strikes again.