Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why We Shouldn't Shop for Mail...Or Something Witty

TCM’s big feature of the afternoon today was the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. If that name sounds familiar, that’s probably because it was the name of Meg Ryan’s store in You’ve Got Mail, the 1998 remake of Shop, filled with all the amenities of today … like dial-up Internet service.

In a bout of creativity, I decided to write up a comparison for our faithful readers in case you’d ever venture to buy it. (It’s somewhat difficult to find nowadays, apparently. The guy at Barnes and Noble told me it was out of print as he handed me their one copy) Let’s get to it:

The Main Differences (aside from the technicalities of correspondence):

  1. While Ryan’s bookstore is being taken over by Hanks’ evil corporate giant in Mail, the leads in Shop work together. Stewart is a senior sales associate at a store in Budapest (of all places) who tells Sullavan’s job-seeking character that there are no positions open at the store. The owner then trumps Stewart by hiring Sullavan after she demonstrates her selling savvy.

  2. Neither character in Shop are involved with significant others – a storyline that I always thought could be eliminated from Mail.

  3. Shop has its own irritating subplot, however. The owner of the store suspects Stewart’s character of cheating with his wife. It involves a firing, a failed suicide attempt and an overly sentimental hospital visit. This storyline is utterly useless save as a means to an end. It finds Stewart promoted to manager over Sullavan but – and you can call me crazy if you’d like – couldn’t the owner have simply promoted Stewart? Those things have been known to happen, I hear.

  4. Stewart’s character is the main focus of the movie. We don’t spend nearly as much time with Stewart’s character as we do with Ryan’s character.

The Main Similarities (aside from the obvious fact that the leads hate each other, etc):

  1. The blind date scene: Remember when Tom Hanks goes to the coffee shop to meet Meg Ryan for the first time in Mail and realizes she is his Internet harlot. He hesitates and then goes in, completely cramping her style as she tries to get him away before her date arrives by slinging insults at Hanks left and right. The scene in Shop is virtually identical and, like in Mail, is my favorite scene in the movie.

  2. Both male leads have their sidekicks in whom they confide. Hanks had Dave Chappelle while Stewart had Felix Bressart.

  3. The women: Ryan does an amazing job recreating Sullavan’s character. It’s as if Sullavan were on set coaching Ryan.

  4. The length: it’s too long. Too much of the storyline can be cut out. Why Hanks and Stewart carry on pretending “they don’t know” for so long is beyond me.

Overall rating: I’m giving The Shop Around the Corner a “watch it on TV if there’s nothing better on,” sadly the same rating I give You’ve Got Mail. I love each of the characters and the actors who play them, but I detest a movie that makes me question when in the world it’s going to end. The leads counteract the over-extended storyline and tired subplots with their charm, but not nearly enough to stop me from replaying the movie in my head, picking out the scenes that should have been cut out.

No comments: