October 20, 2005

No Sale For This 'Shopgirl'


Cinecultist read Steve Martin's novella Shopgirl when it came out a few years ago but when we sat down for an advance screening of the film last week, CC couldn't quite recall our impression of it. Guess we didn't like it all that much. However, once the film got going it all came rushing back -- the limitations of the book are also the movie's. Condescension thinly masked by supposed quirkiness does not make CC feel romantic, it just makes us depressed.

Claire Danes plays Mirabelle, a glove salesgirl at the tony Beverly Hills Saks Fifth Avenue store. A transplant to Los Angeles from Vermont, Mirabelle still has that innocent glow about her, unsullied by the jaded, over-plasticized, overly made-up metropolis. She drives a pick up truck. She does little drawings which occasionally she sells in a gallery. Then she meets two men, Jeremy (Jason Schwartman) an amplifier salesman turned rock roadie and Ray (Martin), an older tech millionaire who buys gloves at her counter only to mail them to her apartment in a bid for her affections.

This is the kind of story that men write when they don't really understand women. Hello? Interior life? Can we have some for our characters here? Sheesh. There's only so far simplistic "quirk" can get you in terms of story arc and identification. Also, these two suitors are so utterly mediocre CC found it difficult to understand why we should hope anyone would pick them let alone this milquetoast who is supposed to be our heroine. Nothing gets the Cinecultist's feminist hackles up like a romance story that says all a woman is waiting for is for a guy to come along and choose her. Grrrr. Both Danes and Martin are pretty lifeless on screen, though we've liked, nay loved, them in past work. ("My So-Called Life" and L.A. Story double feature anyone?) Schwartzman has his moments of bemusing charm but his OCD franticness and extreme chest hair is just this side of off-putting.

We hate to be the bearers of bad news like this but please, avoid Shopgirl. It's more than just bad. It's on a whole new plane of painful.

Posted by karen at October 20, 2005 8:57 AM