The Shop Around the Corner Review
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, The Shop Around the Corner is a 1940 romantic comedy film that is one of the most fondly regarded of the director’s films.
It is about two shop employees who can’t stand each other, but fall in love together through letters not knowing they are corresponding with each other. The story is my biggest complaint here in that it is sweet and really fun, but too familiar and predictable, never quite rising above its formula, like other screwball comedies did in the thirties. But it is very entertaining and charming throughout the whole short running time. I liked the inclusion of different characters besides the two and their working dynamic is what drives the movie in my opinion. It follows a very typical pattern, but it still does it with style and great charm.
The characters are all pretty well developed and really likable. Kralik and Novak are both superb and their romance is quite heartwarming and their bitter quarrels are rather amusing. As for the other characters in the shop, they all drive this movie as much as the two protagonists with of course the highlight being wonderful Hugo Matuschek. He is a typical old man and a typical boss but what sets him apart is his genuine care for his workers and his relationship with them is one of the standouts of this romantic comedy. I liked his story probably the most and he really is a very sympathetic character.
The acting is really good in The Shop Around the Corner. This is a typical role for James Stewarts, the role he gets typecast quite a bit, you could say. But that is for a reason as he is so good in it. Margaret Sullavan is also surprisingly good and I really liked her character and her performance quite a bit. And of course Frank Morgan did a great job in his role and he makes quite a presence.
The directing from Lubitsch is of course superb with his great touch and a rather playful tone once again exhibited here. But the confined space of a shop I thought did not work as well as some other classic films incorporated beautifully, for example ‘12 Angry Men‘. Here, it did not go smoothly with it as fine as I wished. Another complaint and a big problem in my opinion is the humor. It has its fair share of nice scenes that brought a smile to my face. But that is the point, it brought a smile, never genuine laughter. Not only is it not as hilarious as it should have been, but also it did not focus much on the comedy angle and it too much focused on romance and drama in the third act. The tone is definitely not handled well. But the directing and acting are both great and the pacing I found really polished with never a dragged or rushed scene. The dialogue is of course terrific with many beautifully delivered lines and the cast definitely has chemistry and screen presence. I also liked the romance in this movie quite a bit with the sequences between the two in the second half being quite heartwarming and sweet. Comparing it to ‘Trouble in Paradise‘, I would say that it is roughly on the same level of quality meaning that it has its flaws, but is very effervescent and romantic as well.