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Overall Rating
3.78

Awesome: 32.31%
Worth A Look38.46%
Average: 10.77%
Pretty Bad: 12.31%
Total Crap: 6.15%

7 reviews, 23 user ratings


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Shopgirl
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by Doug Bentin

"Mr. Schizo strikes again."
3 stars

"I wrote a novel this year called 'Shop Girl,' and several producers came to me and wanted to turn it into a movie. And I said, ‘If you think you're going to take this book and change it around, and Hollywoodize it and change the ending... that's going to cost you.’" Steve Martin

That’s the Steve Martin who speaks most clearly to me. It isn’t the guy who was the uncontrollably surreal standup comic or the philosophy major. It’s the guy who combines those two elements and feels a degree of self-loathing for having become the fraudulent hack who churns out such cheapjack fodder as “Bringing Down the House” and “Cheaper by the Dozen.”

When an aging film star/writer creates a character for himself that is a middle-aged man who manipulates an affair with a younger woman, the temptation to see the situation as a confessional is hard to resist. Whether or not Martin has a letch for the sweet young things—if any such exist in Hollywood—is beyond my ken. I don’t care much about the private lives of celebrities, or anyone else for that matter. Unless it’s a private life that’s really depraved, and then just for comparative purposes.

In “Shopgirl” Martin plays Ray Porter, a wealthy software designer who uses his quiet charm to pick up a saleswoman in the glove department of Saks in Los Angeles (Clair Danes). Mirabelle asks herself “Why me?” and none of us ever find out. In fact, why was Ray even in the glove department? He buys a pair of gloves, but just as a gift for Mirabelle. Was he trolling the entire store in search of a victim? Who knows?

The only other man in Mirabelle’s life is Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman, who seems to be in a contest with his uncle Nicolas Cage to see who can concoct the most annoying screen mannerisms), an irritating goof who will find his dream job as a roadie for a third rate rock band.

Jeremy picks her up in a Laundromat, amid the tumbling skivvies. He’s verbally and intellectually clumsy, awkward, and appears to he hygienically challenged.

Despite these negative attributes, Mirabelle agrees to go out with him. The date is pretty much a flop. Seeing the two of them together you have to wonder why Mirabelle is so desperate. Why doesn’t she know anyone? You suspect there must be something wrong with her, something that we can’t see yet but that will surface when the plot needs it to. But no.

When Porter comes along, Mirabelle makes the obvious choice.

The film follows the fates of the three characters over a period of a year, give or take. One can’t love and doesn’t care to learn how, one wants to learn and works at it, and one loves not wisely but too well. Director Anand Tucker tells the stories well, cutting between them in ways that allow the individual to comment on the collective.

I think Martin’s script cheats a little by allowing Mirabelle to ultimately find some success as an artist, but I suppose this is done to keep her failed affair from destroying her. She finds something in life to take Porter’s place, and her art serves to make Porter realize what a talented lover he’s lost. One wonders what the happier ending cost Martin as a writer.

Danes’ performance is touching in the ways she finds to let us in on the secret that some people are doomed to find love the hard way. Martin’s Porter is so frigid, even his warmth chills you. Any young woman more experienced than Mirabelle would recognize this man’s ego for what it is. But then, she’d also realize that she could never remain happy with the slightly improved but still doofussy Jeremy.

It’s easy to read the story as an expression of Martin’s disgust at himself for his heartless and disinterested pursuit of “youth” in the form of low rent, take-the-money-and-run sitcoms. If the more mature Steve Martin isn’t the version you like, “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” opens on Dec. 21.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12767&reviewer=405
originally posted: 11/18/05 02:58:52
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2005 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2005 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/18/10 Dr.Lao Its sad to see a true original like Steve Martin re-hashing cliches and calling it a script 2 stars
6/16/08 PAUL SHORTT HAS'NT THE BRIGHTNESS OF A ROMANTIC COMEDY NOR THE TRISTESSE OF MELODRAMA 1 stars
3/24/08 ladavies I was touched by this. It had some moments that felt authentic. 5 stars
5/19/07 David Pollastrini CLAIRE DAINES IS HOT IN THIS! 3 stars
5/17/07 ES Everytime I see Jason Schwartzman on the screen I want to punch him in the head 2 stars
9/18/06 Jaden The movie worth the $10, this reviewer is trying to sound smart but has no clue. 5 stars
9/01/06 Jim Interesting but plotless character study 4 stars
4/27/06 Phil M. Aficionado Yes, yeah, right, bingo. It IS life, and it is beautifully done all around/ 5 stars
4/23/06 Mase Definatley for people living in LA, Beautifully shot but a little hollow. 4 stars
11/28/05 Milo A truly awful stinking turd of a movie. It's not honest, IT'S BORING. 1 stars
11/28/05 Elizabeth S Heartbreaking. 4 stars
11/19/05 Jimmy Kustes For those that like character studies over narratives 5 stars
11/15/05 Kyle Molin Good Movie. Well acted even w/o Jimmy Fallon. Still, the book was better 4 stars
11/15/05 Amy Loved the book. Loved the movie. 5 stars
11/15/05 Khan Jari Californian overwrtought , pretentious fluff. Pathetic. "This is life"??? Gimme a break. 1 stars
11/13/05 Ali Shamelessly sentimental and equally insensitive...sounds like real life. True and honest. 5 stars
11/13/05 Rae touching, beautiful and awkward 4 stars
11/11/05 John Adams This was a well written thoughtful look into something that probably happens more often tha 5 stars
11/07/05 brit Tries to be artsy but instead completely ridiculous. Also insulting to women. 1 stars
11/05/05 db I thought the movie was excellent. It was nice to go to a movie about real life. 5 stars
11/03/05 thomasrichmond.biz very funny with a steve martin sence of humor 4 stars
10/14/05 Sarah S Great movie, interesting juxtaposition of artsy scenes with funny. 5 stars
9/13/05 Alex Brisbourne A real treat (and a surprise). Good script, well produced. Enjoy! 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  21-Oct-2005 (R)
  DVD: 25-Apr-2006

UK
  20-Jan-2006 (15)

Australia
  01-Dec-2005




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