Shopgirl (2005)
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Review Date: January 11, 2006
Director: Anand Tucker
Writer: Steve Martin
Producers: Ashok Amritraj, Jon Jashni, Steve Martin
Claire Danes as Mirabelle
Steve Martin as Ray
Jason Schwartzman as Jeremy
A lonely woman who works at a department store counter is asked on a date by a slacker at a laundromat and accepts. A little time later, she meets an older, richer guy, who also asks her out and treats her real nice. This film basically follows these three people’s lives as they figure out who they are and what they want out of life, relationship-wise. Sugar daddies and rock star roadies ensue.
I was really surprised that I liked this movie. First of all, I remember L.A. STORY being one of the films I had hated the most when I was younger (Steve Martin wrote that film, as well as this one) and never considered Claire Danes at the top of my list of favorite actresses. Add that to the fact that I hadn’t heard any significant buzz about this movie, and consider how despite those elements working against it, I ended up really enjoying the film and even qualifying it as one of my favorite romance movies of the year. It’s not every day that Hollywood will doll out an “adult movie” featuring actual fully realized adult human beings who don’t speak in one-liners and aren’t injected into a storyline for the purposes of box-office or secondary character banter. All three leads in this film were interesting characters with various imperfections and qualities who actually learn about themselves as the film moves forward, and maturely handle their respective situations. What a fresh perspective! Bravo to the filmmakers for NOT making this a simple “Oh, that guy turned out to be an asshole” scenario. It doesn’t always work that way in real life either…sometimes there is no “bad guy”, but the situation just doesn’t gel.

Don’t get me wrong, I love those Woody Allen-esque neurotic characters as much as the next guy, but it was also quite refreshing to watch three human beings tackling relationship issues in a mature and secure manner, despite the fact that they didn’t always make the right moves. Even if you don’t fall for this film, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the fact that it doesn’t talk down to the audience and deals with each situation in an honest manner. Kudos to Martin for writing such a sharp script, sprinkled with many romantic scenes, as well as a handful of humorous touches to keep things light. The film also relies on an underlying theme of “loneliness” shown via many shots of the stars in the sky, characters staring out into nothingness or simply pondering their existence. I could relate to that as well…I think everyone can. At some point in your life, everyone feels lonely – like no one will ever love them – and this film manages to tap into that feeling, and matches it with a compatible score and melancholic mood all around. Danes also comes through as the lead with a nice variety of feelings throughout, running from the extremely lonely (poor girl, has to take pictures of herself) to the sexy (expect an artfully done ass-shot, kids) to the jolly and sad.

The only misstep in the film, in my opinion, was the opening and closing narration from Martin himself. His words were interesting and true, but I think they could have presented in a subtler way. Mix into all of that, the always entertaining Jason Schwartzman and the lovelier-than-lovely Bridgette Wilson (stay tuned for her gratuitous scene in black lace garters, baby), and you’ve got yourself a nice overall package. Oh, and I love Wilson’s advice to Danes about dating men who ask her out at work. Hilarious stuff. All in all though, this film has got “adult relationships” written all over it and deals with real people, romantic moments, feelings of love and insecurity, commitment issues and tender stuff as well (yeah, I teared up like a child during one of its final scenes). Oh, and if you didn’t know this already, this film confirms it: it’s great to be rich!
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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