Shopgirl Movie Review
Based on a 130-page story by Martin that is commonly termed a novella, Shopgirl is about a Saks 5th Avenue glove counter clerk named Mirabelle (Claire Danes). There's not much call for gloves in Los Angeles, so Mirabelle spends most of her days expressionlessly leaning against the glass, waiting for life to start. By night, she occasionally sketches a nude picture of herself: She's also an artist, again waiting to be discovered.
And so Mirabelle's life does begin, thanks to the near-simultaneous arrival of two men: Proto-slacker Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman) and obscenely wealthy (yet humble), late-middle-aged Ray (Martin). Mirabelle finds herself strangely smitten with both guys, though they couldn't be more different. Jeremy has a job as a "font designer" -- which turns out to largely involve spray-painting logos on amplifiers. He's dead broke and is emotionally retarded to the point where one wonders if Martin actually has any contact with anyone younger than 40 in the real world.
Ray is a "logician" who travels frequently for business via private jet. (Whoa, that's some rich math geek.) He picks up Mirabelle at the Saks counter and whisks her away from her one bedroom and into a life of Spago takeout, fine wine, and Armani ball gowns. When he explains to her that he wants to "keep his options open" -- and she misinterprets this -- the film makes its clearest statement, about how men and women see relationships differently. It's a bit cliché, but Ray is basically just using Mirabelle for sex, while Mirabelle is expecting Ray to end up with her, despite him being 40 years her senior.
When Martin was goofing off with Sarah Jessica Parker in 1991's L.A. Story it was kind of quaint and cute. Now that Martin is a full sixty years old, the whole May-December thing has gotten a little creepy.
About halfway through Shopgirl you realize that there's not going to be a wild story erupting that, oh, gets Mirabelle pregnant and confused over the identity of the father. The biggest twist comes, and I hope this isn't a spoiler, when we find out that Mirabelle has stopped taking her antidepressants. Whoa!
Directed by Anand Tucker (Hilary and Jackie), Shopgirl is a very pretty, moody, and lovely movie to watch. It's not really about anything, and the story is incredibly slight, but it's enchanting in the way a piano sonata can be. Maybe it's the natural charm of Danes that makes it feel so gossamer light, coupled with the goofy antics of Schwartzman which provide the proper amount of comic relief. It's a film that washes over you, and one that is ultimately so pleasant I've had trouble getting it out of my head.
On the other hand, I might just be confused by it all. The lack of momentum ultimately makes you focus on the message of Shopgirl, which is admittedly weak. Ray never really learns his lesson. Mirabelle never becomes self-actualized (though thankfully she gets back on her meds). And the only character, Jeremy, who really changes owes it all to the power of self-help books on tape. Though the film would like to be about how men and women see relationships differently, it's really about how Steve Martin and women see relationships differently. If you are Steve Martin, this film is definitely for you. Anyone else may want to take a date.
I'd like one with extra fingers.