THE BOOKSHOP — Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy and Patricia Clarkson in one movie? That is a dream team right there. Despite such a quality cast, however, The Bookshop will likely test the patience of those who require peppier pacing and more compelling drama, even in a well-meaning film set in a British seaside village in 1959. Director Isabel Coixet’s screenplay, based on Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel, focuses on Florence, a young widow (Mortimer) who decides to open a book store in an old damp house in the heart of the community. That is despite protestations by the town’s wealthy grand dame, Violet (Clarkson), who wants to use the same property for a local arts center — and will stoop to any means to get her way.

Devices — such as the erratic use of a narrator (Julie Christie), the near-constant presence of rain showers and a reclusive bookworm (Nighy) who barely leaves his Bronte-esque homestead with its snake-like dead vines clinging to its exterior — only partly succeed in injecting some atmosphere into this rather simple storyline. When Florence decides to start selling the scandalous Lolita, complete with a full display in her front window, one might think that will lead to her store’s demise.

Not quite. As they often do, small towns apparently breed small minds, and the villagers launch a grand conspiracy that we hear about but never really see in action. At least the tension level rises at this point. As for the performances, Mortimer and Nighy share a lovely connection on the beach as he offers to be her white knight, Clarkson is allowed to show her genius as Violet rehearses her reactions right before receiving an incensed Nighy at her mansion. But all the adults are all upstaged by one Honor Kneafskey, Florence’s schoolgirl helper, who does a killer eye roll beneath her atomic cloud of blonde curls.

motw logo 1-35EDITOR’S NOTE: The Bookshop is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for August 24, 2018.

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a senior editor for the online awards site Gold Derby. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.