Starring: Steve Martin, Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras
Director: Arnand Tucker
ALSO! Check out where it ranked in our 2005 Year in Review.
The emergence of a strictly adult romantic drama would appear to many as a blessing in disguise, what with the overabundance of prepubescent, Hilary Duff-led teen romances and formulaic romantic comedies ushering their way into theaters these days, but “Shopgirl” is far from delivering a worthy candidate. Try to imagine a movie with a great story, even better character development, and a perfect cast who all turn in wonderful performances. Then, imagine walking away from that same film completely dumbfounded by how uninterested you were the entire time. Congratulations, you’ve just experienced “Shopgirl,” one the most wasteful trips to the movies all year.
Based on the best-selling novella by Steve Martin (who’s also adapted the story for the screen), “Shopgirl” is the tale of a quirky love triangle between a woman and two very different men. Claire Danes stars as Mirabelle Buttersfield, a struggling artist who works in the desolate glove department of Saks Fifth Avenue with no love life to speak of. That is, until she meets Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), an equally-struggling artist who may not have the social graces needed to sweep Mirabelle off her feet, but will nonetheless fill the void for the time being. But just as Mirabelle begins to grow tired of Jeremy’s major issues with maturity, Ray Porter (Martin), a much older, but dignified, dot com millionaire enters the picture to offer her fancy dinners and pretty gifts, but the lavish lifestyle comes at a price that Mirabelle’s not sure she wants to pay.
Schwartzman’s happy-go-lucky performance as Jeremy is far and wide the best thing about this utterly depressing film, but it’s difficult to overlook Danes and Martin, whose scenes together are so rich in emotion that you can’t help wanting more. Unfortunately, you get more, and the on-screen relationship drags on for about forty minutes longer than necessary. How a novella can be adapted into a two-hour movie is beyond me, especially considering that many things were actually left out of the original version. Most notably, Mirabelle’s issues with manic depression, which is briefly glossed over in the script, but just as soon forgotten once it’s played its dramatic role in the narrative.
The biggest problem with the film, though, has to be the inconsistent focus on who exactly the main character really is. The beginning of the movie stresses that Mirabelle is the protagonist of the story, but by the one hour mark, Martin’s character has been given just as much attention, leading the audience to believe that maybe he’s the one we’re supposed to be investing our emotion in. This wouldn’t have been as big of an issue if the Jeremy character was given equal analysis - he is the other major player in this tale, no? - but instead, Jeremy is assigned to play the role of the clown, cheering the audience up after each dramatic meltdown. Is this fair? Not really. But if you’re walking into “Shopgirl” with the intention of seeing a good movie, then you’ve already been duped.
The single-disc DVD release for the film adaptation of Steve Martin's bestselling novella is about as pointless as the actual adaptation. Did anybody even like this movie? Obviously not, or the filmmakers would have put forth a little more effort when creating the bonus material for this DVD. A making-of featurette, two deleted scenes and a commentary track with the director? Are you kidding me? Is that it? What a waste of twenty bucks. Just give me the money; I'll spend it on something better.