Starring: James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan, Frank Morgan
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Running Time: 99 mins
The Shop Around The Corner is an American film about two co-workers in a Budapest gift shop who can’t stand each other, but are unwittingly falling in love over the course of anonymous correspondence after responding to a small ad.
Despite having a fantastic premise, I just couldn’t buy into this film. It may be pretty funny from time to time, and an easy-going watch, but I found it surprisingly difficult to get emotionally engaged in the romance that was forming unexpectedly between these two ‘enemies’, and that meant that large portions of the film that weren’t so comedic were a lot less fascinating.
However, let’s start with the positives, the most impressive of which was the comedy early on. Before the film becomes a lot more romantic, it features a lot of very funny humour watching our main man clash with almost everyone and everything at the shop he works in, and I was laughing on a pretty consistent basis throughout the first act, which was great to see.
Maybe it’s because I had such a good time with the early part of the film that I expected it to keep up its comedic whilst the romance developed, but I was disappointed to see that the film lost its excellent humour later on, making for a much less enjoyable watch than it could have been.
Another part of the film that I liked, but was ultimately cause for disappointment, was the performances. James Stewart is as charismatic as ever, whilst Margaret Sullavan is excellent too. At the beginning, their chemistry and on-screen repartee is fantastic, and they made their bizarre dislike for each other very real and very engaging.
However, their ability to make the rivalry so convincing didn’t quite relay onto becoming love interests. Once again, it might be because I had been so entertained by watching Stewart and Sullavan bicker for so long early on that I couldn’t come round to the idea of them being in love. Whilst the premise of them unknowingly doing so through their correspondence excited me, I just couldn’t ever get on board with the idea given that the first act cemented their negative relationship so clearly.
Overall, whilst I did enjoy the beginning of The Shop Around The Corner, thanks to its impressive comedy and performances, I felt it lost its appeal as it moved further towards a solely romantic drama. It may work for some, but I was too engrossed by the opening act to buy into the direction the film took later on, and that’s why it gets a 7.2 from me.