Shopgirl is gentle, heartfelt, and thought-provoking – a real rarity in today’s romance market that consists mainly of sitcom caricatures making bets as to whether or not they will fall in love. Based upon Steve Martin’s novella of the same name, there is undoubtedly some truth behind the events depicted.
Mirabelle Buttersfield (Danes) is a small town girl who has just moved to big city Los Angeles. She works at Saks Fifth Avenue selling gloves, which is envisioned in the film to be as boring as it sounds. One evening while at the laundromat she meets Jeremy (Schwartzman), a scatterbrained but ultimately harmless young man with a love for music. They go on a few awkward dates, but they seem like a mismatch. Ultimately Jeremy ends up hitting the road with a local band as their amplifier techie.
Enter Ray Porter (Martin), a wealthy, divorced man who is lonely. He buys some gloves from Mirabelle at Saks, but no more than a few hours later do the gloves show up on her doorstep as a gift. A romance soon develops, but Mirabelle will ultimately have to choose between the two men in her life.
Steve Martin has adapted his own novella for the screen, and the result is a quiet, unconventional story with well-drawn and believable characters. Martin has always had a taste for the bittersweet and here he utilizes it to near perfection in a story that is real and personal emotionally.
Martin really takes the backseat to the other two main characters when you get right down to it. Claire Danes is as impressive as I have ever seen her as Mirabelle. She is downright radiant as she envelops this confused soul who is truly torn. It’s easy to see why both Ray and Jeremy are attracted to her. She has that innocence of a small town girl, but never comes across as a gold-digger when she is with Ray. She knows he’s rich, but she truly loves him in ways that money cannot buy. Jason Schwartzman is the show stopper as Jeremy. Schwartzman’s bread and butter have always been laid-back, quirky characters that you cannot help but like. We have all known a Jeremy at some point in our lives, and here Schwartzman literally morphs into this character in a brilliant performance.
While engaging, the film is not without faults. There are two underlying subplots that are never really fleshed out, and it seems like they may have been the victims of some sloppy editing. Neither is unnecessary, but they do leave the viewer pondering their fate as the credits role. Barrington Pheloung’s score is one of the most intrusive in quite some time, and some scenes border on being laughably melodramatic due to it.
Quibbles aside, Shopgirl is a wonderful story with some delicate humor and a big heart. The cast is fantastic across the board and I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if Danes sneaks in with an Oscar nod. It’s about high time that we get a mature, poignant commentary on relationships as they unfold in reality.
Studio: Buena Vista Pictures
Length: 104 Minutes
Rating: R for some sexual content and brief language.
Theatrical Release: October 21, 2005
Directed by: Anand Tucker
Written by: Steve Martin. Based upon his novella of the same name.
Cast: Steve Martin, Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Sam Bottoms, Frances Conroy