Review: The Shop Around The Corner

How often do you go to the movies and leave the theatre buzzing with happiness? There is a rare, very special kind of film (that seldom gets made any more) that can produce this kind of feeling in an audience. The last film I saw that managed it was Juno, and that was five years ago. Even in the old days, they weren’t churned out every year. But there are a select few movies that were great back then, and have only become more special and precious over time. The Shop Around The Corner, directed by Ernst Lubitsch in 1940 and starring a fresh faced James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan, without a shadow of a doubt, is one of them.

Set in wintry Budapest, the film follows Alfred (Stewart) and Klara (Sullivan) in the bizarre situation of being catty rivals at work, while unknowingly falling in love by post. Many will spot the resemblance to the far inferior You’ve Got Mail – a modern update starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. That has nothing of the sparkling magic and endearingly optimistic sense of fun that this gem contains. The chemistry between Stewart and Sullivan lights up the screen, and the supporting cast – including a scene stealing Frank Morgan (aka the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz) – are brilliant. The gags, unlike many old comedies, are still fresh and funny – with many of Stewart and Sullivan’s bitter interchanges in particular still packing a gleefully acidic punch.

But what a huge heart the film has. It is so expertly made, and almost spills over with the love and care that went into its realisation. Both funny and genuinely moving, The Shop Around The Corner deserves its place among the best-loved Christmas movies of all time. Whether you’re an avid film aficionado, or simply a casual viewer, watching this is a joyful way to start getting into the festive spirit. A real delight!

Review by LiveWire Young Film Critic, James Martin (December ’11)