3 stars (out of four)
Making a simple, natural, humanistic movie about shopaholics and boutique owners in L.A. might seem a pretty weird proposition, even for a low-budget American indie by a card-carrying maverick such as Henry Jaglom. But Jaglom's "Going Shopping" is a nifty little oddity, another of his unlikely, entertaining movie hybrids. It's a film about real people with problems in Santa Monica and West Los Angeles, the kind of folks who might mingle in elite groups like the Jack Nicholson-Dyan Cannon crowd, their neighbors or their kids.
In this case, Jaglom and his actress/filmmaking partner Victoria Foyt ("Deja Vu," "Babyfever") have cooked up a movie about a frantic, suddenly debt-ridden boutique owner, Holly G. (Foyt), thrown into a terminal cash flow bind because of the spendthrift ways of her aging boyfriend Adam (Bruce Davison)--who also, unfortunately, happens to be her accountant.
Faced with a seemingly mountainous task, raising $40,000 over the weekend, Holly turns to her friends, her mother Winnie (Lee Grant) and an affable loan shark, all with mixed results, while also mounting a huge sale--and trying to shove her bad boyfriend out of her life and welcome in a new, perhaps better one. The new candidate, a feminist Prince Charming named Miles (Rob Morrow), is also in the process of smoothly divesting himself of his unsuspecting girlfriend Quinn (played by Jennifer Grant, daughter of Cannon and Cary Grant), something that makes you wonder how much Holly can really count on him afterward .
It's nice to know that some filmmakers can stay true to themselves, despite the encroachments of time, finance and all those complex L.A. mores and shopping spree rituals. "Going Shopping" is a movie that only Jaglom, now 65, could have made.
As in his similar Hollywood babble-ons "Eating" and "Babyfever," he throws together fantasy and reality on several levels, lacing his contrived story with uninhibited close-up interviews in which a verbose bevy of women (including his main characters) reveal their thoughts about shopping. We meet shopaholics, shopophiles and even a lifelong shoplifter, all illustrating why the cliche "you are what you eat" resonates less for some Angelenos than "you are what you wear."
It's all voyeuristic, of course; that's the essence of Jaglom's improvisatory style. Jaglom, who began his major Hollywood career as a charter member of the Nicholson-Dennis Hopper late '60s Hollywood New Wave, has his spontaneous-chatter method down by now, and "Going Shopping" smoothly blends the '60s-'70s American underground and documentary style with a love of classic Hollywood romantic-comedy schmaltz, as in Ernst Lubitsch or Leo McCarey movies.
It's a strange mix, but it works because he's dealing with actors and creating characters who, in their real lives, often try to replicate that schmaltz as well: to have romances like Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant and Irene Dunne .
If you've ever lived in Los Angeles, and wandered in its western areas, you know how accurately Jaglom portrays a certain rich-kid, show-biz milieu. Here, everyone has a good moment or two, and one of the movie's most fetching performances is by a genuine Hollywood legend, Lee Grant, 78, who was an Oscar nominee for her role as a shoplifter in 1951's "Detective Story" and who seems to have defied age.
Jaglom's best movie to date remains "Last Summer in the Hamptons," his 1996 lyrical ensemble drama about a theatrical family/community, which also co-starred Foyt. But, in "Going Shopping," he's on firmer ground than he was in his last two, "Deja Vu" and "Festival in Cannes." When the loan shark works out a discount deal with Holly for his wife, daughter and mother-in-law, or Holly and Miles flirt in the park above Santa Monica Beach, or the camera roams around a restaurant patio picking up confessional shopping snippets, we're solidly in the world of casual affluence and movie-love that he knows best.
Jaglom's movies are often self-indulgent, and he's never less convincing than when he plops his Hollywood romantic shtick into the middle of some real-life gab or argument. But they're goofily likable. We know he and his mostly female characters are reaching for the moon, but there's just enough neurotic or sharp badinage and Rodeo Drive realism to make it all go down easy.
Directed and edited by Henry Jaglom; written by Victoria Foyt, Jaglom; photographed by Hanania Baer; production designed by John Mott; music and lyrics by Harriet Schock; produced by Judith Wolinsky. A Rainbow Film Co. /Revere Entertainment release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:46. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for brief strong language).
Holly G. - Victoria Foyt
Miles - Rob Morrow
Winnie - Lee Grant
Coco - Mae Whitman
Adam - Bruce Davison
Quinn - Jennifer Grant
Lisa - Cynthia SikesCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun