The day The Smiths separate, a group of teens find themselves lost, more than usual, in this mystery called life. In a misguided attempt at showing the world what he believes in and what has saved him, one of them takes a heavy metal station DJ hostage.
Written by Lorianne Hall and Stephen Kijak with Kijak directing, the film manages to catch that magic of being a teenager (or at least what some will remember of it) at the end of high school, when life is about to change majorly for all and for some it’s about to be just the same old same old because they can’t afford to go anywhere. No matter, the dreams, the hopes, and all the things that made growing up in the 80s/90s is right there. There is that feeling about the story that is just on point. Add to that the drama of losing one’s idols, in this case The Smiths (but it could have been any other band really) when everything is else if changing around them so rapidly and their lives end up feeling so much more impacted by this one aspect. The way this is approached and achieved here works by not treating the teens like they are idiots. Their feelings, what they live is taken seriously even when it’s “just a band splitting up” because it’s important to them and everyone remembers when something like that has happened in their teen years. There is a search for the realistic impact of the events here and it works for the film. It works so well that even though it’s a bit of a slower film, it is still one that keeps the viewer involved.
The cast here is one composed of an eclectic group of young actors with more adult cast member. Of course, he is the one most will recognized as the DJ is played by Joe Manganiello, a metal head through and through who gets to be the hostage at the center of what is possibly the most chill hostage situation seen on film in a very long (possible ever seen even). Lately, Manganiello has been taking the most random parts and works great in all of them. From last year’s Achenemy to The Spine of Night to this, he’s been getting some good variety and showing more than decent range. Here he’s a dude in a radio station with a voice that is instantly recognizable and he works with it well here. His performance gives the other side of the story, the side of those who didn’t just lost their favorite band, a voice and an understanding. The cast for the teens is talented and generally play them as fully fleshed characters, not simply archetypes. The top three, if we can say it that way, are definitely Ellar Coltrane, Helena Howard, and Elena Kampouris, but the whole cast of teens affected by the event at the center of everything does great work. There is a synergy, something between them, that creates a true ensemble and they work amazingly well together.
Another major part of this film is the music. That of the The Smiths of course, but also a few random metal tracks here and there and a couple other songs as well. The film makes the most of its central music and plays as much music as the budget could afford the rights to, which was a necessity given the subject of it all. The choice of songs in interesting and those who are not big fans of The Smiths may discover some new music here. Of course, this reviewer was waiting for one song in particular and it took the whole film to get to it by the very end, but still, it was the perfect song to end everything on.
Shoplifters of the World is both a music film and a coming-of-age film and it does both really well. The fact that these two are mixed this way gives the film an edge over many other films of both genres. The teens here are believable with hopes, dreams, goals, sadness, joy, love, hate, etc, the whole spectrum of what being a teen is all about while also being played well by the cast. The adults around them are not just the usual condescending grown-ups often seen in these kinds of films, they bring something to the table and make it all a better rounded film.