“The Shop Around the Corner” is destined to be a family favorite. I knew this going in having seen the modern take “You’ve Got Mail” over a hundred time with my wife Melissa. (Seriously, it’s her favorite film of all time.) And then I found out Jimmy Stewart starred in it, and I was sold.
Stewart plays bachelor Alfred Kralik who is the best salesman at the Matuschek and Company in Budapest and owned by Hugo Matuschek. Alfred is Hugo’s confidant and has excellent advice. Enter Klara, who has previously worked as a salesperson and desperately wants a job. She sells a cigarette music box to a woman and convinces Hugo to both hire her and buy a huge supply of the boxes.
Along the way we learn Alfred is having a pen pal romance with a woman he’s never met. He’s deeply in love. And he’s antagonistic with Klara who seems to be making inroads with the boss, and rubs Alfred the wrong way.
Of course Klara’s the mysterious pen pal. Alfred doesn’t learn this until the day he’s fired (as he’s fallen out with Hugo, he gets more and more frustrated until finally Hugo lets him go) when he’s supposed to meet his pen pal in a cafe. When he realizes it’s Klara from the shop around the corner, well, he has to come to terms with his mixed emotions. He both loves her—the part of her that sent the wonderful letters—and loathes her—the part that was in competition with him at work.
Alfred comes back to work soon after—Hugo realizes he made a huge mistake in firing him—and Alfred softens toward Klara. He woos here all along while keeping the pen pal writing up and not letting on that he’s really the mysterious friend.
The action all takes place during the lead up to Christmas, and the final scenes take place on Christmas Eve. There is some talk of love and connection and reconciliation, although more could have been done with that.
I’m giving it 3 Bethlehem Stars (it could have done more with the Christmas themes), while also recognizing that it’ll be one I watch again and again.
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