November 3, 2005


shopgirlA worthwhile if occasionally clumsy romance, Shopgirl examines what a male infatuation is like for the object of male desire: Mirabelle (Claire Danes), a kind, sweethearted artist who escaped the frozen wastes of Vermont for a lonely existence in the tangles of Los Angeles. Two men fall for her on first sight: kindly but emotionally detached millionaire Ray (Steve Martin) and sweet but aimless Justin (Jason Schwartzman). Martin and Schwartzman play their roles with care and affection, but they are drawn as ridiculously polar opposites. Steve Martin the screenwriter seems to be drawn to this feeling-versus-thinking, brains-or-body dynamic: His original screenplays L.A. Story and Roxanne both cover this same idea. In L.A. Story, Harris K. Telemacher struggles to choose between sexy free-spirit SanDeE* and eccentric and plain Englishwoman Victoria Tennant. Steve Martin plays brainy, witty, nose-y C.D. Bales, versus sexy, brain-free Chris (Rick Rossovich) in Roxanne.

Besides the ham-handed symbolism (yeah, we get it, Justin's poor and unrefined, and Martin is rich and polite!) the overbearing, overloud musical score made the movie feel twice as long as it should. The repeating theme sounded like Bernard Hermann's Vertigo- it made me dizzy and logy.

Director Anand Tucker (Hilary & Jackie) apparently has never been to Los Angeles before, and has never seen a movie set there either- the recurring helicopter shots of the clogged freeways are terribly cliched and stock, as if there was no other way to illustrate the locale of the movie. The establishing shot of Saks Fifth Avenue's exterior was exactly the same in each instance: How about a different angle, or different time of day?

I am hardly a follower of the Claire Danes oevure. Danes's films I have seen (on the big screen or TV) include Little Women, How To Make an American Quilt, Home for the Holidays, Romeo + Juliet, and Les Miserables. However, I was very taken with her performance: At the age of 26, Danes begins this movie a shopgirl and ends it a woman.(Kendall Square Cinemas) .