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Going Shopping

(2005) ** 1/2 Pg-13
96 min. Rainbow Releasing. Director: Henry Jaglom. Cast: Victoria Foyt, Lee Grant, Pamela Bellwood (II), Cynthia Sikes (II), Marcia Strassman.

Like the funky little shop at its heart, Going Shopping may not look like much from its exterior, but a little browsing turns up unexpected treasures. Writer-director Henry Jaglom rounds off an informal trilogy on subjects that are ostensibly women's issues; Going Shopping compliments Babyfever (1994) and Eating (1990). Working with co-scripter and leading lady Victoria Foyt, Jaglom raises many issues regarding sales, acquisition, and consumerism, but the cheery tone belies the film's darker undercurrents.

The energetic Foyt plays Holly G., a clothing designer who hocks her wares from a best-kept-secret boutique (also called "Holly G"). when Holly's irresponsible boyfriend Adam (Bruce Davison) botches the bookkeeping, Holly finds herself in a bind: sell all of her inventory in a Mother's Day Weekend blitz or close up shop for good. Faced with a seemingly insurmountable task, high-strung Holly doesn't know what to do with the affections of a new suitor (Rob Morrow), and when not tangling with her handful of a mother (Lee Grant), Holly makes life miserable for her teenage daughter Coco (Mae Whitman).

Shopping addiction, shoplifting, usury, property division, credit-card reliance, and the rampant consumption of capitalist culture all play a part in the sales-holiday story, though Jaglom and Foyt follow no issue to any consequence more extreme than temporary discomfort or temporary euphoria. In their quest to be non-judgmental, the filmmakers achieve neither a satirical bite nor a joyous celebration, but they do provide food for thought and a few gentle laughs.

Davison is perfect as the fast-dancing boyfriend, Morrow is charming as the purveyor of the romantic-comedy subplot, and Grant is a force of nature. By happily fulfilling customers' dreams and elegantly spinning passive-aggressive gems ("It's not you. It's very pretty, but it's not you"), Foyt anchors the generational triple threat of women who must remind each other not to rely on men, financially or emotionally.

Jaglom and Foyt fill out their narrative with two tricks of their trade. The first is the improvisatory freedom given to the actors, who embellish the script with personal filigrees. The second is a series of to-the-camera, talking-head interviews expressing a multiplicity of views on purchase power ("Look what the right dress did for Cinderella!" notes one besotted shopper). Jaglom's Altman-esque pan-and-zoom style and the noodling piano of Harriet Schock's score suit the relaxed, boutique quality of the film. Despite an upbeat mood, the film's ending is admirably and eerily bittersweet.

[For Groucho's interview with writer-director Henry Jaglom and writer-star Victoria Foyt, click here.]

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