Having previously explored women’s attitudes toward food in “Eating” and reproduction/fertility in “Babyfever,” Henry Jaglom examines femme feelings about their consumer habits in “Going Shopping.” Latest film suffers by comparison, however, because shopping is inherently a less compelling topic than eating or having babies (though die-hard shoppers might insist it’s far more satisfying). Item may draw curious women looking to cool their heels, say, while out shopping, but straight men can be expected to stay away in droves and Jaglom regulars will probably wait for the DVD.
Because women’s thoughts about food and babies are inextricably tied into their feelings about their own bodies, “Eating” and “Babyfever” touched female angst and offered moments of surprising poignancy. While shopping presents the same potential for obsessive behavior, the worst thing one can say about it, given our capitalist culture, is that uncontrolled shopping can send you into debt.
In familiar Jaglom style, “Going Shopping” interweaves the on-camera “confessions” of some four-dozen women with a narrative structured around the events transpiring over a Mother’s Day weekend sale at a pricey Los Angeles boutique. As the sale approaches, proprietress/designer Holly G. (co-scribe and longtime collaborator Victoria Foyt) learns her boyfriend/accountant (Bruce Davison) has squandered her earnings; unless she can come up with three months’ back rent, she faces eviction.
Story follows Holly’s misbegotten attempts to find the money — first from a loan shark, then from a friend — while she simultaneously tries to mend fences with her mother (Lee Grant) and daughter (Mae Whitman). When a charming younger man (Rob Morrow) shows up one day shopping for his difficult-to-please girlfriend (Jennifer Grant), Holly rightly senses a new romantic possibility.
As usual, it’s the faux confessions that are the most engaging, and often feel the most accurate, specifically the ruminations on the horrors of dressing-room lighting and ghastly mirrors, and the shared belief that shopping holds a short-term cure for depression.
Because it doesn’t probe much deeper than that, however, “Going Shopping” inadvertently reduces women to a variety of cliches, probably reinforcing many men’s worst fears.
The camera work is largely unobtrusive. Use of actual locations, specifically for the boutique, ironically feels too cramped to offer the verisimilitude that a set might have provided. It’s worth noting that some of the fashions are created by Jennifer Nicholson, the designer daughter of Jaglom’s old friend Jack.