Shoplifters of the World is a comedy/drama film which takes place in 1987. Four friends cope with the recent disbanding of the iconic British band, The Smiths. Meanwhile, a local radio station deals with the backlash from one violently passionate Smiths fan. Intercut with a documentary about The Smiths bringing their music and movement into context, Shoplifters of the World is a love song to the band and their fans. Written and directed by Stephen Kijak, Shoplifters of the World is about youth, identity, fandom, friendship, and rock and roll.
The main character. Generally speaking, rock culture has been a white-dominated space that excludes people of color. Often, fans from BIPOC communities hide their love of the music genre to avoid bullying. The rock band clothing lines, magazines, album covers, music videos, etc. use exclusively white models. The movies that surround rock culture also tend to feature white actors at the exclusion of anyone else. This is where Shoplifters of the World takes a different stance. Cleo, the main character, is a black girl. It is not discussed in the film and there is nothing that demands her character be black. She just is. It's so refreshing to see and such a welcome change. Black kids like rock too. This film, with its act of defiance in casting, acknowledges those black kids.
Style. Shoplifters of the World is a stylish comedy and the color grading is an important piece. The world is dark and full of blues and greens. Despite this, Shoplifters of the World is not at all depressing, or mopey. It’s a cute and quirky film that welcomes a broad audience. Loving The Smith’s or British Rock is not a prerequisite to enjoying this movie. This movie really captures the social nature of music. Kids run around in the night, The Smiths constantly narrating in the background. Music is enjoyed among friends and broadcasted to huge audiences via the radio. Groups groove and sway to beats at bars and parties, and in full cars. The characters all display some spectacular style as well. Each of them has their own eccentric dress and Cleo’s old beat-up buggy even has personality. The cool outfits of the late ’80s will certainly be a pull for some viewers and costume designer Gina Ruiz did a great job pulling each of their looks together. It adds to the movie’s charm.
Subtlety. This film doesn't cherish subtle storytelling. The main characters are mirrored by their favorite band, The Smiths. The Smiths are loners who only have each other and are still breaking up. Similar to our main group of friends who are about to go their separate ways. Instead of letting the viewer put two and two together, one character outright says it. Instead of showing the characters are outcasts with just their dress and disposition, we hear “normal” girls flat out say how uncool they are. The acting does not help much either. Line delivery often seems like memorized lines instead of real people having real conversations. The dialogue is frequently expositional — clearly there to inform the movie watcher, instead of the characters. It’s extremely noticeable and reminds you that you’re watching a movie every time.
Comedy. Shoplifters of the World has a juvenile sense of humor. Masturbation jokes and other corniness abound, this is a movie that appeals to a younger audience. This comedy/drama loves sight gags. At one point, Cleo drives past a cemetery, and only for a second, a tombstone with the name Smith is visible. Those quick jokes add a youthful eccentricity to the film.