out of Five
Running time: 104
Unusual, occasionally uneven romance that just about succeeds thanks to a captivating central performance by Claire Danes.
Shopgirl is Steve Martin’s adaptation of his own novella – in addition to being written by Steve Martin, it also stars Steve Martin. However, it’s directed by British director Anand Tucker, who made Hilary and Jackie
and therefore knows a thing or two about female-centric relationship dramas.
Danes stars as Mirabelle Butterfield, a lonely young woman from Vermont who lives in L.A and dreams of becoming an artist. Her evenings are spent alone in her apartment labouring over her artwork, whilst her days are spent behind the glove counter of a ritzy L.A department store, in order to pay her rent.
Encouraged by a talk radio show to find a man (any man), she is somewhat taken aback when two come along at once: first, Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), a nerdy font designer obsessed with amplifiers; and then Ray Porter (Steve Martin), a wealthy, successful and extremely charming older man.
Shopgirl is an unusual film in many ways – for one thing, the lush cinematography and sumptuous score sit oddly with what ought to be a fairly simple romance. Martin’s voiceover narration is horribly pretentious and threatens to derail the entire film, although fortunately it’s used sparingly.
Another, more serious problem is that you feel that Mirabelle could do so much better than either Jeremy or Ray. This is also down to the fact that there’s an uncomfortable lack of chemistry between her and either of the two male leads.
The film is rescued by Claire Danes’s performance – she’s heart-breakingly good as Mirabelle. In addition, the various dating scenes are sharply observed and provide welcome comic relief. There is also strong comic support from Bridgette Wilson-Sampras as a bitchy colleague of Mirabelle’s, who gives her some hilarious dating advice.
In short, Shopgirl is worth seeing for Claire Danes’s performance, but you can’t help feeling that it should have been a lot better.