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Overall Rating

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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by brianorndorf

"Steve Martin hates relationships"
4 stars

Steve Martin’s “Shopgirl” explores the melancholy truths about relationships, and how they help shape people in the long run. Beautifully acted by the cast, especially Claire Danes, the picture can get overbearing at times, but the strength of the material always seems to shine through.

Mirabelle (Claire Danes) is a bored, lonely shopgirl stuck working the glove department at Saks, dreaming of a better life. While working she meets Ray (Steve Martin), a shy, wealthy businessman who offers her silver-lined romance and conditional love. At night, she meets Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), a grubby roadie who offers her little (in fact he takes more than he gives), but is relentless in his pursuit. As the year passes carefully, Mirabelle's experiences with these two men help her to understand who she is, and free her from the cocoon of routine she was trapped in.

As an actor, Steve Martin always seems to lean toward slapstick comedy. But as an author, his acerbic wit and spiky prose shine in ways Hollywood never lets him show. "Shopgirl," adapted from Martin's 2000 novella, reveals a different, almost melancholy mood inside the performer, and he seems ready to rip apart the conventions of a romantic feature film.

While marketed as a standard "who will she choose?" feature film, "Shopgirl" is anything but. Martin's screenplay explores relationships for the ugliness they are and the beauty they can be, but keeps his focus on the individual, not the couple. In this case, it's Mirabelle, and her thirsty heart. Played with expected, yet breathtaking accuracy by Claire Danes, Mirabelle's odyssey doesn't follow the traditional push-and-pull romantic entanglements; her character arc in "Shopgirl" is much more complicated, as Martin considers the personal growth that comes from relationships, and how life experiences shape people in strange ways. While the film takes delight in demonstrating the colorful characters that fall into Mirabelle's view, in the end, the attention remains with Mirabelle and her fractured expectations for life and love.

Director Anand Tucker (his first film since 1998's achingly beautiful "Hilary and Jackie") has chosen a highly theatrical approach to filming "Shopgirl." With exaggerated lighting and an overbearing score by Barrington Pheloung (which suggests that Mirabelle is near suicidal every time it appears), the film works hard to create a sense of profundity from Martin's story. At times, this can be exhausting to watch, and strangely damages the specific pace that Tucker builds in his first act. Martin's script takes the characters to unexpected places (Jeremy ends up on an enlightening tour with a rock band), and Tucker is intermittently unable to connect the story together in satisfying ways, especially during a mid-movie droop which finds Mirabelle falling back into the depression she was secretly fighting. Either Martin had difficulty managing his tale, or Tucker couldn't juggle fast enough, but the story slackens as is goes along, taking with it a clarity that was so invigorating to the opening scenes.

Drawing complicated portraits of lovers and friends, "Shopgirl" goes to some very interesting places found in both the mind and heart.

It's an interesting movie, if a bit messy, but it has an interest to explore the complicated residue of poisonous relationships, and features a good quality cast and crew to richly realize the emotions.

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originally posted: 10/28/05 14:53:04
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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
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 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
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  21-Oct-2005 (R)
  DVD: 25-Apr-2006

  20-Jan-2006 (15)


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