Directed by: Anand Tucker
Premise: Based on Steve Martin’s novella. After separating from a lethargic man her own age (Jason Schwartzman), Mirabelle (Claire Danes) begins a long-term relationship with Ray (Steve Martin), an older man, in which the love is ultimately one-sided.
What Works: This a very subtle but beautiful story in which characters are finely drawn and their relationships are complex. The film is extremely well cast. Claire Danes’ performance captures the vulnerability and femininity of her character but also maintains her dignity and her integrity. Neither she nor the script reduce the role to a weepy, love sick stereotype. Steve Martin is also very good as Ray. He is cruel but not intentionally. It is a fabulous performance and a reminder of how good of an actor Martin is. The film puts the anatomy of Mirablelle’s simultaneous attraction and heartbreak on display, how it happens and why it happens. Director Tucker has got serious talent for revealing subtext and using the cinematic form to reveal character.
What Doesn’t: From our privileged view as spectators, it is easy for the audience to keep wishing that Danes’ character would just wake up to the reality of her relationship with Ray, but that is the journey for her to take.
DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette.
Bottom Line: Shopgirl is a fine film, a love story that truly avoids clichés and uses humor to lighten up what is otherwise a heartbreaking tale. While it will certainly appeal to fans of the romance genre, Shopgirl should have much wider appeal.
Episode: #106 (August 13, 2006)