Isabel Coixet’s The Bookshop is perhaps the most superfluous movie I’ve seen in a long while, if not forever. I say this as someone who’s seen multiple Transformers movies, which at least serve the purpose of existing to make money. The Bookshop, however, is a flaccid little drama that doesn’t offer anything in the way of artistry or entertainment. And I say this as someone who actually works in a bookstore, who’s drunk the Kool-Aid and will gladly yammer on about the importance of books and bookselling. I should be the target audience for this movie, and even I find it dreary and dull.
The basic arc of the movie is woman (Emily Mortimer) opens bookshop, bookshop eventually closes. That’s really the extent of it all. There are some outside machinations that lead to her downfall, but the entire movie somehow feels like padding. Sure, there’s a little extra characterization to fill in the film’s 113-minute runtime, but for the most part, we’re left with a lot of drab dialogue and languid shots of Bill Nighy walking.
There’s never anything given to the viewer to latch onto. Mortimer’s Florence wants desperately to open a bookshop in the small British town she lives in, specifically the drafty “Old House” she calls home. The why to this is never explained, but presumably it ties into the blurry flashbacks of her husband, who died in World War II. While we’re told that no one in the town’s a reader, Florence goes ahead anyway, much to the consternation of the film’s villain Violet (Patricia Clarkson), whose vile scheme is to turn the Old Home into an arts center. This is where the film’s drama lies, but much like Florence’s drive to open her bookshop, there’s never any motivation to Violet’s never-ending scheming for her arts center. Perhaps it’s born out of boredom, something this movie’s very good at.
The only real highlight is the burgeoning friendship — one cultivated by a mutual love of books — between Florence and the reclusive Edmund (Nighy), mainly because the only levity the film has to offer is Nighy’s innate talents as an actor. His character, however, is given barely anything to do, getting little more than a mawkish death that’s mostly plopped into the middle of the movie. The end result is a movie that left me confused as to why it was made in the first place, why anyone dropped millions of dollars to make something so inert, that has nothing to say. Rated PG for some thematic elements, language, and brief smoking.
Now playing at Grail Moviehouse.