Review: ‘Shop of Dreams’

"Shop of Dreams," Estonia's foreign-language Oscar submission this year probably because it was the only Eesti film to meet Acad criteria, reps dreary, banal chick flick fare, helmed by veteran hyphenate Peeter Urbla ("Baltic Love"). Maarja Jakobson, as pretty and talented as a plank of birch, stars as the proprietor of costume rental shop she opens with two gal pals who together discover self-esteem through small-business management.

“Shop of Dreams,” Estonia’s foreign-language Oscar submission this year probably because it was the only Eesti film to meet Acad criteria, reps dreary, banal chick flick fare, helmed by veteran hyphenate Peeter Urbla (“Baltic Love”). Maarja Jakobson, as pretty and talented as a plank of birch, stars as the proprietor of costume rental shop she opens with two gal pals who together discover self-esteem through small-business management. Such a clunky empowerment melodrama may do all right domestically, but “Dreams” may be in for rude awakening beyond the Baltics.

When the film studio she works for folds, costume designer Alice (Jakobson) joins forces with put-upon wife and seamstress Ada (Anne Reemann, best of the thesps) and young, fool-for-love make-up artist Jana (Evelin Pang) to help people live out their fantasies through masquerade and makeovers. Once abused by her stepfather (Madis Kalmet), Alice dithers over her relationship with sensitive builder Andres (Meelis Rammeld). Meanwhile, Jana’s beau Ivar (Karol Kuntsel) betrays them all with reality TV show exposure. Despite reasonable (for an Estonian film) budget enabling use of 35mm, tech credits are sloppily assembled, particularly in editing and lighting departments.

Shop of Dreams

Estonia-Finland

Production

An Exitfilm (Estonia)/Silva Mysterium OY (Finland) production, in association with the Estonian Film Foundation, Estonian Cultural Endowment, Estonian Ministry of Culture, Finnish Film Foundation, Finnish TV YLE. (International sales: Exitfilm, Tallinn, Estonia.) Produced by Anneli Ahven. Co-producers, Peeter Urbla, Mika Ritalahti, Niko Nitalahti. Directed, written by Peeter Urbla.

Crew

Camera (color), Mait Maekivi; editor, Anri Rulkov; music, Tiit Kikas, Music Island; art director, Inessa Renser-Josing; set designer, Ain Nurmela; costumes, Raili Nolvak; sound (Dolby SR), Tiina Andreas, Ants Andreas, Horret Kuus, Olli Hutanen. Reviewed at Black Nights Film Festival (Estonian Feature Film Competition), Tallinn, Estonia, Dec. 8, 2005. (Also in Pusan and Palm Springs film festivals.) Running time: 111 MIN.

With

Maarja Jakobson, Anne Reemann, Evelin Pang, Karol Kuntsel, Meelis Rammeld, Madis Kalmet, Maarika Vaarik, Hannes Prikk, Toomas Urb, Hannes Kaljujarv.
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