“Unite, consume, and fly” George W. Bush instructed America after 9/11. A clear message: shopping is vital in keeping capitalism, and thus the system in which leaders like Bush maintain power, running smoothly. A pretty rudimentary lesson, but Henry Jaglom seems to have ignored or missed it entirely. No, terms like “commodity fetishism” aren’t about to enter the lexicon of a rom-com like Going Shopping, Jaglom’s latest, but just a single insightful element might have suggested the film cared about something beyond its characters’ contrived obstacles and grating neuroses.
Perhaps that element was supposed to be the direct-address “confessionals” (where are you, Godard?) by the actors/characters that punctuate Going Shopping’s insipid plot about an expensive boutique clothing shop owner, Holly (Victoria Foyt), who must raise enough money to keep her store while handling a rebellious teenage daughter, a klepto mother, an inept businessman of a boyfriend, and a young romantic suitor, all in, of course, two days. In these confessionals shopping gets likened to therapy, theater, war, addiction. But it’s merely surface sociology. Left unaddressed is the heart of the matter: the social phenomenon of people buying things they don’t need in order to feel content.
The film can’t even hide superficiality behind aesthetics. For one so concerned with clothing, Going Shopping is painfully gaudy, ubiquitously employing pastels and tacky fashion. Jaglom directs his actors to freely oscillate between shrieking, yammering, and crying, which only reinforces the stereotype of women (the only real consumers in the film) too hysterical to function without credit card in hand. Between such histrionics and unbelievable plot contrivances (the known universe comes out to the sale to save Holly’s store in a laughable It’s a Wonderful Life moment) nothing even resembling criticism fits into Jaglom’s sprite vision of consumerism. But then, Going Shopping resolves its central conflict by having its characters, yes, going shopping, just like Dubya would like it.
Opens September 30 at Angelika, Metro Theater