A special degree of thanks should be given to Henry Jaglom for offering high-profile roles in his new feature “Going Shopping” to three actors who have been woefully underused in recent years. Jaglom has the good sense to cast the legendary Lee Grant in an extraordinary role as a rambunctious yenta with a remarkable secret (not revealed here – no spoilers in my reviews!) and a hideous taste in boyfriends, Rob Morrow as a gentle furniture maker with his own unusual secret (also not revealed – it comes in the final scene and thus cannot be told here) and Bruce Davison as a sleaze whose incompetence and arrogance drives his designer/dress shop owner girlfriend to near bankruptcy. Having these wonderful performers back on the screen in deeply-textured and intensely honest roles is the cinematic equivalent of an early Christmas present.
As for “Going Shopping” itself, the film is typical Jaglom: a small production that is very talkative, highly emotional and somewhat demanding (in both a good and bad way). The focus is on the aforementioned designer/dress shop owner, Holly G. (Victoria Foyt), who is in danger of losing her business unless she can come up with $40,000 in unpaid rent within three days. The time frame falls over the Mother’s Day weekend, so she coordinates a 30-percent-off sale and tries to bring as many shopaholics to her boutique as possible.
There are plenty of distractions and diversions along the way, including a failed negotiation with a loan shark, a would-be business partner who does not deliver, a sales clerk who tries to take merchandise in lieu of bounced paychecks, a pre-teen daughter who is acting like a brat, her mother discovering that her beau is a two-timer, and the strangely-timed romantic pursuit from that aforementioned nice guy who makes furniture.
Throughout the film, the action pauses for women to address the camera on why they love shopping. The answers are somewhat expected: the therapeutic value, the thrill of hunting for something nice and new, the escape from the real world, etc.
Foyt, who was Jaglom’s collaborative partner and leading lady on his last three films, is actually the weakest link here. Her performance is synthetic and actressy – she never comes across like a real woman in a real dilemma, but rather she is playing too hard to push emotional buttons beyond her grasp. Her weakness is magnified when Grant, Morrow and Davison share the screen with her – their bravura ease only makes her emoting seem unconvincing and often amateurish. (A special slap goes to someone named Farzin, who is credited with doing Foyt’s hair – most likely with garden shears, since she has the worst hairstyling I’ve seen in a movie!)
“Going Shopping” may also seem fairly dated to some in its view of women. The shopaholics come across as spoiled, self-centered, easily manipulated by sweet-talking sales clerks, heavily reliant on men for everything (especially money) and, judging by the clothing in the film, lacking in good taste. It is also a film about the higher-income leisure classes. For the working women who have to hunt for nice clothing at affordable prices, this film with its $435 blouses and $350 dresses may be too rich for consumption.
But…there is Lee Grant, Rob Morrow and Bruce Davison in wonderful, considerable roles. Enough said!