November 17, 2005 -- “Shopgirl” is a bittersweet love story about some people who are burned by love because they risk much, and others who are burned by love because they don't risk enough. Naturally, those who risk the most are those who gain the most.
Steve Martin (who also wrote the screenplay and the book on which it is based) stars as one of the lovers, Ray Porter, a software millionaire. He meets Mirabelle (Claire Danes of “Stage Beauty”) at a department store where she works and finds a way to meet her. She falls in love with him, but he holds himself a bit apart, keeping his options open. Mirabelle drops her other boyfriend, Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman of “Bewitched”), a struggling artist. Jeremy's love for Mirabelle inspires him to become a better person, even though he is rejected. He embarks on a cross country odyssey with a rock and roll band. Eventually, Jeremy, Ray and Mirabelle come to a crossroads and each must decide what to do about their future. The result is predictable, but the path they take to arrive at their point of decision is somewhat unconventional.
Like Martin's earlier great film “L.A. Story,” the story takes place in Los Angeles and the city and the lifestyle are key elements in the film. The loneliness and isolation of the city's people, also evident in Martin's earlier films, is more acute in this latest film. Both Mirabelle and Ray are surrounded by a modern, shiny, sterile environment which seems very alien. Jeremy, the artist, is the only one who seems to live in a unique environment of his own making. Both Ray's home, and Mirabelle's workplace seem seem like places which are unwelcoming to humans. They seem like places more fit for robots. This near total separation of humanity from any kind of natural environment is a clever construct of the film's art designer Sue Chan. There is also some nudity in the film.
The acting in the film is superb by all the leads. This is Claire Danes best performance since “Romeo + Juliet.” Schwartzman gives the film a nice comic edge and it is nice to see an actor for a change who hasn't had all of his body hair forcibly removed. The production values are high. The story has a ring of truth to it and it has some unexpected twists. This film rates an A.
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