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Rosalie Goes Shopping [Movie]

Filmed at the end of the “Me Decade” of the 1980s, Rosalie Goes Shopping (1989) is an eccentric, comical critique of American consumerism. In its quirky fashion, the film reflects the growing multinational, digitized nature of debtor economics and underscores the reality that consumerism is not limited to those living in large cities. Filmed almost entirely in Arkansas, this German-produced film is centered in Stuttgart (Arkansas County)—a town founded, not coincidentally, by German settlers.

The film was directed by German director Percy Adlon, who with wife Eleonore Adlon wrote and produced it. Marianne Sägebrecht plays the title character, Rosalie Greenspace, a plump Bavarian with a serious addiction to buying things. Her goofily demented Arkansan husband, Ray “Liebling” Greenspace, is played by Brad Davis (in his final film role).

Rosalie had met Ray when he was a military pilot in Germany, and now he flies a crop duster. They and their seven children live in Stuttgart, the “Rice Capital of the World,” as a road sign in the film attests. The town is featured extensively as Rosalie blithely drives around on shopping sprees and money-juggling expeditions in her van (with a personalized Arkansas license plate reading “CHRG IT”) while listening to recordings of Bavarian yodeling. The film also employs shots of the Riceland mill in Stuttgart, aerial views of rice fields in the area, an interior sequence in the Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie, and views of Little Rock (Pulaski County), including the airport and the Rogers (now Stephens) Building.

The family lives in a large new house with a swimming pool and a satellite dish. Raised in the most extreme of consumerist environments, Rosalie’s children, like her, are restless and utterly dependent on consumer products. The family eats extravagant meals prepared by son Schnucki, who is studying to be a gourmet chef. After dinner, the family sits on the living room couch watching videotaped television commercials, parts of which they have memorized and chant in unison. They pause only to order garish products, such as ring watches, over the phone.

Rosalie’s “shopping” habit is fueled predominantly by loans and mortgages, thirty-seven credit cards, installment plans, and, as the movie unfolds, forged checks and money stolen from Riceland and Metropolitan National Bank in Little Rock, among others. A Catholic, Rosalie regularly confesses to her baffled, disapproving local priest (played by Judge Reinhold), who remains the only outsider significantly aware of Rosalie’s credit swindling. Later, the priest (reminded by Rosalie that the Vatican is itself loaded with debt) begins to rationalize Rosalie’s methods of obtaining money.

Increasingly unable to pay off her debts, Rosalie, with the aid of daughter April’s computer, founds a “family business”—composed, in essence, of hacking into businesses’ databases—by which she is able to “beat the system.” The film’s most famous line is spoken by Rosalie’s mailman (played by Bill Butler): “If you’re $100,000 in debt, that’s your problem, but if you’re a million in debt, it’s the bank’s.” Like many large corporations, Rosalie thrives because of—not despite—her extreme debt, and over the closing credits, she reveals to the priest that she has decided to take her “business” multinational.

For additional information:
Rosalie Goes Shopping. Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098224/ (accessed May 24, 2006).

Percy Adlon, Filmmaker. http://www.percyadlon.com/ (accessed May 24, 2006).

Bryan L. Moore
Arkansas State University

Last Updated 12/9/2009

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