I’m both too young and too old to fully relate to the Smiths breakup pic “Shoplifters of the World,” which will be available on VOD and in select theaters beginning Friday, Mar. 26.
I was 5 years old when the Smiths broke up in the summer of 1987. I mostly know of them via needle drops of “How Soon Is Now?” from “The Craft” or as the theme song to The WB’s “Charmed,” Craig Kilborn’s oft-discussed obsession with frontman Morrissey on “The Late Late Show” or due to ignorant comments Morrissey’s made regarding immigration in the U.K. within the past few years.
I wouldn’t fanboy out in the way the teenage characters do here. If my favorite band were to break up I wouldn’t drive down to my local radio station and wave a gun in the DJ’s face demanding they play the group’s tunes. Nor would I crash someone else’s party to force my music upon others and subsequently judge them for not digging it. (My favorite band is Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. When Petty died – ostensibly ending the group – I didn’t act a fool … I simply listened to a ton of their tunes and cried A LOT.)
“Shoplifters of the World” reminds me a bit of those “one night in the lives of youths” pictures such as “American Graffiti,” “Dazed and Confused” and “Can’t Hardly Wait” with a dose of ‘90s counterculture flicks such as “Pump Up the Volume” or “Empire Records” thrown in for good measure, but it’s not nearly as assured as any of these movies.
The film is “based on true intentions.” Dean (Ellar Coltrane) is a record store employee reeling from the Smiths breakup. He has a crush on fellow Smiths devotee Cleo (Helena Howard, “Madeline’s Madeline”), whom he lets shoplift tapes. She too is stinging from the breakup.
Their paths diverge as Cleo plans to spend her evening partying with friends Sheila (Elena Kampouris of the recent “Children of the Corn” redux), Patrick (James Bloor, one of the interchangeable white dudes in Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk”) and Billy (Nick Krause) whereas Dean intends to hold DJ Full Metal Mickey (Joe Manganiello) hostage with a pistol he procured from the store.
“Shoplifters of the World” is written and directed Stephen Kijak. Kijak’s only narrative feature films are his 1996 debut “Never Met Picasso” and this – in between he directed numerous music documentaries such as “Scott Walker: 30 Century Man,” “Stones in Exile,” “Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of,” “Jaco,” “We Are X” and “If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd.” Kijak clumsily weaves elements of narrative features with documentaries by incorporating archival interview footage of Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr and even resorts to lamely including song titles and lyrics in the dialogue.
A lot of these affectations leave the actors struggling. Coltrane and Krause were both great in Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood.” Krause also excelled by getting socked in the nose by Robert Forster in Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants.” Some of acting is posing, but these young men generally read like poseurs. The young ladies fare better as Howard and Kampouris feel more authentic and have more substantial arcs to play. The picture’s true standout is Manganiello (who produced alongside his brother Nick). His metalhead DJ is warmer and funnier than you’d expect and he elevates Coltrane’s performance in their scenes together.
I can’t in good conscience recommend “Shoplifters of the World,” but I’m also probably not its target audience. If you’re a fan of the Smiths from back in the ‘80s or an emotive teenager now it’ll probably resonate with you more deeply than it did me.