I couldn’t sleep a couple nights ago, so I dug up a screener from the gi-normous “pleasure pile” instead of something more pressing, and fired up Late Night Shopping, an entirely enjoyable British import of chatty twentysomething angst from 2001. Good call, it was; product fit mood nicely.
Directed by Saul Metzstein, from a script by Jack Lothian, the film self-identifies on its cover box as “in the tradition of Slackers [sic] and Swingers,” which is a bit misleading. It’s loose-limbed, character-focused and dialogue-driven, sure, but also much more conventionally structured than the former film, from Richard Linklater. Its story centers around a quartet of loose, vagabond acquaintances drawn together by their night-shift occupations and sardonic dispositions. Phone bank operator Lenny (Enzo Cilenti) is haunted by a past spent penning steamy letters for a Penthouse Forum-type magazine, which has rendered him unable to connect to women, including the gal in his office on whom he has his eye. Consummate ladies man Vincent (James Lance) is on the prowl for anything with a vagina, and operates on a strict, three-encounters-only policy of rationed coitus. The gal of the bunch, acerbic Jody (Kate Ashfield), hates her techo-manufacturing job most of all. Hospital orderly Sean (Luke de Woolfson), meanwhile, is uncertain whether a fight with his live-in girlfriend, Madeline (Heike Makatsch), has dissolved their relationship for good; since their schedules don’t align, he’s been examining the soap and sheets in an attempt to see if she’s still around.
Late Night Shopping grades out quite high on dialogue and character relatability, so the utter contrivance of a third act seaside escape/road trip — which pulls the movie out of its interesting, pop-gloomy twilight world — is only moderately irksome, all things considered. It’s meant to give the movie a rear-end slap of downhill momentum, this injected aspect of romantic “questing,” but in reality its shopworn conventionality bleeds the movie of a good bit of its rough-around-the-edges charm. Still, of special note is Lance’s performance — he gives good lothario, making Vincent both scummy and funny, thoughtful and thoughtless all at once.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, Late Night Shopping comes presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, with an English language stereo audio track. In addition to liner notes by British film critic Jason Solomons and a feature-length audio commentary track with writer Lothian and director Metzstein, there’s the movie’s theatrical trailer, a single deleted scene and a couple of featurettes in which Lance and Cilenti showcase two respective bits of sleight-of-hand that their characters employ. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. B (Movie) B (Disc)