Friday, 2 August 2013

Shopgirl (2005)

Written by Steve Martin, adapted for the screen from his own novella, Shopgirl stars Claire Danes as Mirabelle, the titular girl, a slightly lost young woman who finds herself first being wooed by the clumsy Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman) before falling for the more charming and attentive Ray Porter (played by Martin). The problem is that Ray knows exactly what he wants in life and keeps things on the path that he chooses. He keeps Mirabelle slightly at a distance even as he tries to treat her as she deserves. Jeremy, on the other hand, may not have the life experience or money to treat her as well, but has a sincerity mixed in with his slightly abrupt manner. His head may not be completely screwed on, but his heart is good and completely open to Mirabelle.

Directed by Anand Tucker, this movie looks stylish and pretty throughout, although the emphasis is on the great script by Martin. It's nice to see that everything wasn't just ignored while the script was made the focus, but there's no denying that the movie belongs more to Martin than Tucker, in my view.

It also benefits from three great central performances. Danes is very sweet and bright and desirable. Schwartzman is endearing, even in his early, horribly clumsy, attempts to get Danes to like him. Martin works very well in his role, playing a man who wants to be good to a woman he likes, but is also just too comfortable with how his life has been running for a number of years. Bridgette Wilson-Sampras is a lot of fun in a small role, playing a very envious colleague who sees the transformation in Mirabelle and sets out to discover what brought it all about.

The film is romantic, funny, smart and feels very honest. The characters onscreen are capable of being quite mean to each other, but it's all handled in a way that keeps everything sweet and light, even while deftly dealing with some weighty affairs of the human heart.

One of the more atypical screen roles for Martin (in a number of subtle ways), it's also, paradoxically, one of the best translations of his celebrated written work into movie form. Well worth watching. It may seem like a very light and insubstantial piece, but appearances can be deceptive.


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