A short film based on John Updike's story of the same name.
John Updike's A & P is the subtle masterpiece that tells the story of Sammy, a young clerk at the local A & P supermarket. The story is set in 1961, in a world on the brink of a social awakening. The U.S. would soon leave behind its childlike innocence and open its eyes to a wider and more mature world view. Updike alludes to this through the character of the innocent young Sammy, Sean Hayes in his first film role, who is on the verge of his own awakening. His eyes are opened, literally and figuratively, when a bikini clad girl, Amy Smart, and her two friends walk into the store on an errand. These provocative young girls provoke different reactions in different people.
One would think that a film based on such a good story could not help but be a joy to watch; one would think. Schwartz' direction was stilted and obvious. His shot selection was awkward. He resorted to the use of voice-over, thus taking most of dialogue out of the mouths of the actors, who he generally prevented from actually performing. The Massachusetts accent attempted by Hayes was unsuccessful and unneeded. The music, which greatly contributed to the historical setting, was overused and at times was overwhelming. Schwartz' sledgehammer approach to direction ultimately detracts from Updike's delicate tale, making it difficult to enjoy.
Despite all the problems, this film is watchable for three main reasons. The background music perfectly set the mood of the socially naive world of 1961. The set direction was also very well done. These two very important, but often ignored, aspects of a film help to successfully transport the audience back in time. The third reason is, of course, having the opportunity to watch the early performances of the emerging young actors.
This film is flawed, but is worth watching if only for the Updike story and the early performances of future stars, Sean Hayes and Amy Smart.
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