Shopgirl (2005) starring Steve Martin, Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Sam Bottoms, Frances Conroy directed by Anand Tucker Movie Review

Shopgirl (2005)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Claire Danes and Steve Martin in Shopgirl

If the Glove Fits

It's easy and right to compare "Shopgirl" to "Lost in translation" they are very similar movies both in tone and storyline with the focus on two individuals who connect in the moment. And the similarities I am sure extend to what people expect because like some found it strange for Bill Murray doing restrained in "Lost in translation" watching Steve Martin delivering something very similar is going to be just as strange. But "Shopgirl" is a very good movie, adapted from a Steve Martin story it explores relationships in a very low key way, some may say a dull way but for others it will be fascinating.

Life for Mirabelle Buttersfield (Claire Danes - Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) has not turned out as she expected. Having graduated from college she finds herself working an unfulfilling job at Saks department store and going home to just her cat. All she wants is to feel the love of a man who will hold her and when she meets Font designer Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman - Bewitched) she hopes that maybe he will be that man. But not only does he not know how to treat a woman with affection he ends up on the road with a band. But enter Ray Porter (Steve Martin - Cheaper by the Dozen), a richer and older man who knows exactly how to make Mirabelle feel special and loved, except he doesn't want any commitment despite willing to spend all his time with her.

Jason Schwartzman as Jeremy Kraft in Shopgirl

Going in to too much detail would spoil "Shopgirl" because this is a movie where you need to understand things for yourself, it certainly doesn't spoon feed information like so many other movies and so it would be wrong to do the same. But to put it simply it is the story of Mirabelle who lives a solitary life but finds two men entering her life, the uncouth Jeremy who doesn't understand what being intimate means and then the mysterious and wealthy Ray who knows exactly how to treat Mirabelle and make her feel special but doesn't want commitment. We watch as Mirabelle and Ray fall in love but the fear of commitment holding Ray back whilst knowing that Ray fears commitment making things awkward between them. And whilst this is going on Jeremy has hit the road with a band where he slowly reinvents himself thanks to the guidance of the singer.

But that is "Shopgirl" purely on the surface because this is a movie about how these people connect, what they get from each other and mean to each other. It has that same restrained dramatic tone as "Lost in Translation" which allows you to study how each person reacts to each other, how it affects them and how they keep there feelings in check. And as we watch various dramas arrive we also see how real feelings come to the fore such as when Mirabelle suffers a bout of depression and Ray comes to her help like a Knight on horseback.

Now the thing is that "Shopgirl" sort of fills that middle ground between being mainstream and being arty. The scenes which revolve around Mirabelle and Jeremy, have a comical awkwardness which touches on mainstream funny but offbeat so that it doesn't feel like a gag. But then you get the scenes between Mirabelle and Ray and they are quieter, more tender and a little arty as we watch how Ray feels about her as he caresses her naked back, gentle and light. But as such it does feel at times strange, a little like it hasn't got a purpose, just delivering these strange, quiet moments of closeness between two people.

And a huge reason why it does feel strange is because this is seriously toned down Steve Martin, the most restrained I have ever seen him in a movie and not something that those who only know Martin for comedies will be ready for. But it works because Martin as Ray delivers the intensity of the relationship by saying so little but by looking a certain way. And he works well with Claire Danes who as Mirabelle gets across the ordinariness of the character perfectly yet by just going from staring to smiling changes the mood instantly. Both Martin and Danes excel in almost minimalist acting leaving Jason Schwartzman as Jeremy to deliver the majority of the off beat humour.

What this all boils down to is that "Shopgirl" is a movie which has that same feel as "Lost in Translation" as it explores the connections made between two people with gaps in their lives. And in a similar way it has the same issues as those who think of Steve Martin purely as a comedian may struggle with his seriously toned down performance. But get beyond initial expectations and just allow the way the characters relate to each other to absorb you and you will appreciate what a good movie "Shopgirl" is.

Tags: Age Gap Romances