THE NEW YORK TIMES, February 23, 1990

A Queen–sized Material Girl Loose at the Mall

By Janet Maslinwp8363c36a.jpg

Rosalie Greenspace (Marianne Sägebrecht) is a queen-sized woman with a heart to match, and she can’t help being generous to a fault. Each of the important people in Rosalie’s life seems to need something, something that the person can sometimes describe right down to the brand name and list price and serial number. It just so happens that Rosalie keeps a secret stash of bad credit cards and bouncing checks, toying with these things in the privacy of her bedroom as if they were illicitly satisfying -- as indeed they are. Using these hidden resources, she does her best to supply the computer, the crop-duster or the 16-1/2 pound catfish that would warm some family member’s heart.

Rosalie’s activities would look strictly larcenous if they weren’t also rather sweet. Transplanted from West Germany to the rural backwater of Stuttgart, Ark., Rosalie is, according to the filmmaker Percy Adlon, simply trying her best to understand, practice and master the American way.

wp0a85a308.jpg In ROSALIE GOES SHOPPING co-written by the director and his wife, Eleonore Adlon, Rosalie manages for a long time to coexist cheerfully with small-town bankers and shopkeepers who surely must flinch when they see her coming, with creditors who send her so many notices that even the mailman is impressed, and with a family so wholeheartedly on her wavelength that they all sit around parroting television commercials in unison (“Oh, I can’t believe the difference!”) Then, finally, getting an extra boost from her home computer, Rosalie hooks herself up with local industry and makes it into the financial big league.

It would be difficult to say where Mr. Adlon would be without the incomparable Ms. Sägebrecht, the star of his earlier films, SUGARBABY and BAGDAD CAFE and the shrewd yet beatific center of this one. With her doll’s features and her feisty, over-sized body, this actress is as physically startling as she is temperamentally unique. Someone else might have made Rosalie more abrasive or her motives more identifiably anti-establishment, thus heightened the faint element of cultural condescension at the heart of this West German-born film maker’s vision of desolate, merchandise-mad Americana. But Ms. Sägebrecht is so disarming, so serenely tough and so utterly unclassifiable that her presence works real magic.

The rest of the cast is anchored firmly to this central dynamo, which is a lucky thing, since both the characterizations and the performances risk going well over the top. Brad Davis, as Rosalie’s husband, Ray, a pilot who gives Rosalie his utter trust as well as his paychecks, makes a likably eccentric yet thoroughly elusive figure. (A key revelation about Ray’s problems comes when Rosalie realizes he can barley see and buys him new glasses, not to mention a new plane.) John Hawkes, as the son who hopes to become a master chef (hence the catfish), is yet another of the household’s many oddballs, proclaiming a grand “Voil‡!” as he presents every meal. “Y’all Swedish?” a visiting girlfriend wants to know, on the night when one family dinner is followed by festive videotapes of Bavarian beer.

Also contributing to the film’s offbeat, merrily unpredictable mood are Rosalie’s visiting parents (Erika Blumberger and Willy Harlander), who hardly approve of Rosalie’s new life as a mall dweller but are soon reduced to visiting a local duck museum and buying the souvenir sweatshirts. Judge Reinhold, presiding over the Sacred Heart of the Prairie Church, is amusingly dumbfounded and also furtively intrigued by the confessions Rosalie insists in making, all as part of her little game. He can smell her coming even when he can’t see her, since she often has a new perfume.

Contributing greatly to the blithe, high-rolling mischief of ROSALIE GOES SHOPPING are songs by Bob Telson, one of them a prayer imploring the Lord to “turn my debts into debts of gratitude.” In a more sharply satirical film this might be overkill, but here it’s light as air.



Earlier in this guide it was suggested that the regular news people, and not just the film critics, be invited to screenings. The reason for this is many people find the subject matter an all too real reflection of what is happening in America today. The Orange County Register, p.e. essentially asks this question: “Are you a Rosalie Greenspace too?”



Have a shopping center or store proclaim and advertise a ROSALIE GOES SHOPPING day. Shopping bags, lists and postcards can be handed out to patrons of the store/mall, posters for the movie can be put up and the whole thing can be advertised with the radio promotion.


If you are able to tie in a large store and a/or radio station then you can try a Marianne Sägebrecht “look-alike” competition. Have the radio station advertise it and the store host it. Get a panel of Judges, possibly local film critics or celebrities, judge the entrants. Whichever one looks the most like Ms Sägebrecht wins a shopping spree donated by the store.