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Shopgirl (A Movie Review)


Starring Steve Martin, Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Sam Bottoms, Frances Conroy, Rebecca Pidgeon, Samantha Shelton, Gina Doctor, Clyde Kusatsu, Romy Rosemont, Joshua Snyder, Rachel Nichols, Shane Edelman, Emily Kuroda and Jayzel Samonte.

Screenplay by Steve Martin.

Directed by Anand Tucker.

Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures. 104 minutes. Rated R.

Mirabelle Butterfield is a struggling artist who somehow finds herself working at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, selling formal women's gloves, which, as you may imagine, is very lonely work. She stands, rigid, behind the counter and watches life passing by, people with more money and power and seemingly happier. She had moved to California from Vermont years earlier to try and discover herself, however she is barely doing her art now and seems to have met almost no one in her new hometown. Even her cat is rather stand-offish towards her.

Mirabelle craves love and needs acceptance, not necessarily of the romantic sort, although of course she would jump at that chance. However, more than anything, she just wants to break out of her rut and give her life meaning.

It is at this crossroads that she meets two men. The first, Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), is a young, artsy type who really has no understanding of women. They meet in an all-night laundromat when Jeremy hits her up for change for the drier and her phone number. Jeremy is a slob, always broke, unintentionally rude, and considers himself an artist despite the fact that his "art" is the designing of fonts.

Despite the disastrous first date, she is still hopeful, or perhaps charitable. "Are you one of those people," she asks Jeremy, "who takes a while to get to know, but once you do, they are fabulous?" He has no idea what she's talking about – at least not yet.

The second man is Ray Porter (Steve Martin, who also wrote the screenplay based on his best-selling novella.) Ray is rich, charming, cultured, sophisticated and somewhat distant when it comes to commitment. He meets Mirabelle as a client of Saks, buying a pair of black gloves from her and then sending them to her as a gift with a card invitation for dinner. Mirabelle can't decide if it is a suave move or just a touch stalkerish, but in the end gives him a chance.

Ray is the exact opposite of Jeremy, a wealthy older man (he has some vague computer job) who gives Mirabelle expensive gifts – not to buy her affections, but just because he can. However, Ray will not allow himself to get too involved, he tries to keep the relationship casual even at the point that he obviously desires more.

Shopgirl is unique as love triangles go because it does not pick sides. The movie is way too smart and way too savvy a look at the pull of love, life and desire to fall into the trap of making life so black and white. In the long run it does not matter which man Mirabelle ends up with – or even whether or not she ends up with one of them at all. The film is about Mirabelle's growth, how each man contributes to it and each one tries to thwart it. Both guys are perfect for her in many ways and absolutely wrong for her in many others. Which is, of course, the way that love goes. (11/05)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2005 All rights reserved. Posted: November 6, 2005.

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