I’m going to cope with Black Friday the year by watching movies about shopping, rather than going out and being trampled at Best Buy. I have nothing against Best Buy, actually, it is a fine establishment — it’s the people who line up at 4:00 a.m. to snap up temporarily discounted iPads that I’d like to avoid.
How many movies could there possibly be about shopping? you ask. Oh, I don’t know. ALL OF THEM? Right now I’m a little hungover from Thanksgiving, so making sweeping statements like that feels really good.
For some reason I’m thinking of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? So I’ll tell you what’s eating Gilbert: his job at a small-town grocery store that’s about to be edged out by a corporate supermarket. I’ve never lived in a world where I could have my groceries delivered, and I’m not sure I’d trust anyone besides my husband to choose my bananas. Of course, if a 30-year-old Johnny Depp was bringing them to my door, I would be able to finish this sentence with a joke about bruising his Chiquitas. (YES, I AM STILL HUNG OVER.) The broader point is, of course, that though Gilbert Grape is tangentially about shopping, two of the central characters rarely do their own shopping, allowing the filmmakers are able to explore what it means not to be able to shop. This is a very American thing to think about, not-shopping. Everyone’s trying to figure out ways to spend less and need less, when what we really want is the same amount of stuff delivered to our door by Johnny Depp.
Or here’s another easy target: Shopgirl, the Steve Martin project about finding love in high-end retail, retail that is so high-end it caters to needs I didn’t know existed. I do not normally attend events that require me to purchase evening gloves from Saks. Well, I take that back — two weekends ago I went to a fancy-dress party wearing the hands from my son’s gorilla costume, so maybe I actually do need some evening gloves, if only to wear when the gorilla hands are at the cleaners.
What was I talking about? Confessions of a Shopaholic isn’t streaming on Netflix, however Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary about the artist Banksy, is. I don’t want to watch either of them. I’m not getting anywhere with my shopping assignment.
I called Alice and told her what I was trying to write about. “Pretty Woman!” she shouted at me. It’s true, that movie is one long paean to retail therapy, and how more or less accurate we are when we judge people by how they dress. And how so many women wish they could meet someone like Richard Gere who would change their lives by buying them good shoes. Well, it’s not like that in real life, ladies! Marry a Buddhist and what do you get? A hot bowl of yak butter tea, is what.
What I want to know is, who does the shopping in all those James Bond movies? Those Aston Martins didn’t just roll out of the showroom and into the parking garage at MI-6 under their own power. Alice claims there are hours of deleted scenes of Q shopping at the Sharper Image for just the right pen to kill the prime minister’s evil bodyguard with, or hacking a Hammacher Schlemmer neck pillow so that it will release the correct amount of lavender to help Bond seduce that karate expert with the shapely ankles. Q is probably a shopping ninja.
My point is, Black Friday is almost over and I haven’t left the house. I also haven’t been pepper sprayed or kicked in the shins. See you on Cyber Monday.