Shopgirl (2005)


Leo was such a better fit for her.

‘Shopgirl’ follows Mirabelle (Claire Danes), a disenchanted salesgirl and aspiring artist who sells gloves and accessories at a department store. She has two men in her life: wealthy divorcee Ray Porter (Steve Martin) and struggling musician Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman).

I guess since Steve Martin hasn’t produced a hit in the last ten years or so, that he just ended up writing novellas to keep his mind off things. But, once again, he brings himself back to the big-screen to made us realize just why he should go back to being Inspector Clouseau — as painful as it may be to actually say.

That first paragraph right there makes it seem like I didn’t like this movie, which is wrong; because I did like this movie. However, it was only  certain aspects that seemed to make it work. The mood was pretty good right from the start where we get this somewhat ‘Lost in Translation’ feel where these characters are desperately lost and searching for love anywhere they can find it in L.A.; and it works well for that time being. I also think that some scenes worked mainly thanks to a lot of Martin’s ideas. Like one scene in particular where Mirabelle is telling all of her gal pals that Porter is so into the relationship, but he’s telling his therapist the total opposite. It’s a great way to show how two people’s words can get misinterpreted by the other and it works by showing us that not all relationships we have are going to be exactly the way we want them.

I won’t lie, I did feel a little strange when I thought about the whole idea of Steve Martin (59 at the time) and Claire Danes (26 at the time), actually shakin’ up but I also have to realize that yes, this sort of stuff does happen in real-life. It’s obvious that there are girls out there who do agree to dating and sleeping with older men with money but that doesn’t really mean I want to see it on-screen — let alone done in a way as shallow as this. The whole idea behind this relationship between these two is that she needs and wants love, whereas he wants to give her stuff without ever really having to give her anything. When I say anything, I mean anything. This guy has just maybe one big conversation with her on their first date, where he just asks her three dumb questions. After that, we barely see those two ever talk again. All they do is just mope around, mutter on about when they are going to see each other again, and wonder to themselves if they are really being loved by the other. Then, it gets worse because the film tries to get us to really feel something for this relationship and make us feel the pain that Mirabelle is feeling with this guy, but the whole time I just kept on thinking that she should just freakin’ get rid of the sugar daddy and find some young, hot dude because it’s pretty obvious that she can get whoever she wants. I mean it’s freakin’ Juliet Capulet we’re talking about here people!

The film gets categorized as a romantic comedy but it has some moments of actual comedy and that’s only thanks to Jason Schwartzman as Jeremy. This guy is pretty much the saving grace to this flick because he has perfect comedic timing, is terribly awkward in almost every single one of his scenes, and also seems like the perfect fit for Mirabelle which is why it makes me scratch my head even more that she would go for an older dickhead like Porter. Either way though, Schwartzman definitely makes this film better every time he pops up on-screen and even though it’s a bit weird that the film itself goes on this weird tangent about him touring with this band, it didn’t matter after awhile because it was so fun to watch him just act like a goof ball no matter where he was.

Claire Danes is also very good as Mirabelle and gives off this very old school vibe to her, almost even channeling a young Mary Tyler Moore. She seems like she can be a bit naïve and stupid at points, but the other times she seems like a genuinely sad character that just needs some excitement and love in her life. I’m not much of a fan of Danes since I think all of that shit she did with Billy Crudup back in the day was messed up but I can still say that she gives off a pretty good performance here.

Last but not least, the main problem with this film is actually Steve Martin himself as Ray Porter; because as much of a dick as this character can be, Martin is not very good at playing this type of character. To call Porter unsympathetic is an understatement, he’s a straight-up dick about everything with Mirabelle and definitely doesn’t deserve her one bit. That’s why Martin isn’t the right choice for Porter considering he has the channel off all of that goofiness that makes us love him in the first place. Having a somebody like Michael Douglas, Gene Hackman, or even Al Pacino would have been fine too because these guys are good at playing rich, wealthy scumbags that obviously don’t care but I guess they thought it would be easier to go with the guy that made the source material himself since he’s so close to it, right? Nope! Go back to solving crimes about Beyonce’s lost ring, Steve!

Consensus: Shopgirl definitely features some moments that are smart and work, but they are too spread apart from one another and the character’s love stories didn’t generate as much heat as the film tried to shove down our throats. However, Jason Schwartzman makes it all better in the end.

5/10=Rental!!

7 comments

  1. I wanted to like this film but I was put off by the LIT comparison since I think they’re entirely different films. I did like Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman but didn’t care for Steve Martin’s character.

  2. I doubt I’ll be watching this, and that’s mostly because of Jason Schwartzman. He just irritates me. I can’t watch anything that he’s got a prominent part in!

  3. Steve Martin is an incredibly gifted writer (among other talents obviously) and I adored this novella along with An Object of Beauty which came out a few years later. This might be a story better suited for the page, but I did enjoy the movie. I thought that Clare Danes and Jason Schwartzman were perfectly cast but I agree Steve Martin maybe wasn’t the best choice. I didn’t dislike him necessarily but he wasn’t perfectly suited. He actually wanted Tom Hanks for the role but the producers thought Martin should step in. Overall this might not be the most memorable movie, but it’s a sweet snapshot that doesn’t leave too much to complain about.

  4. “he’s a straight-up dick about everything with Mirabelle and definitely doesn’t deserve her one bit” Man, do I disagree on this. He’s a complete gentleman to her, unlike the guy who’s her age – who is the one acting like a dick most of the film. When she stupidly goes off her meds, Martin nurses her back to health, but this changes their relationship to more “parent/child” than “man/woman”. He realizes this and like a gentleman steps aside when another man comes along.

    By the way, I do agree on the age difference and so did Martin. When he was approached about turning his novella into a movie he said he couldn’t play the part because he was too old. The studio said they wouldn’t make the film if Martin wasn’t in it.

    I feel this is Martin’s best film in years.

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