Mirabelle Butterfield (Claire Danes) is a disenchanted shopgirl, languishing behind the glove counter in the Beverly Hills' Saks Fifth Avenue department store, while nurturing dreams of being an artist. She meets the hapless and hopeless Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman) at the launderette. Then, at the store, she meets Ray Porter (Steve Martin), a successful older man, single and unencumbered with commitments. Ray's sophist acted allure soon draws Mirabelle in, while the hapless Jeremy takes his first risky step off the couch and into the big wide world -- through the music amplifier business, a couple of self-help books and a cross-country tour in a rock 'n roll bus. Both Ray and Jeremy learn some important lessons about love - and so does Mirabelle.
Review by Louise Keller:
Shopgirl is Steve Martin at his most philosophical. This romantic comedy is not like the usual Hollywood fare, but is an exploration of loneliness, isolation, expectations and reality. Based on his novello, Martin has written a thoughtful screenplay that caresses the space between the characters. His Ray is detached with a fear of intimacy and when he approaches Claire Danes' Mirabelle, as she stands alone at the glove counter, it's as though she is the epitome of the porcelain doll in the shop window. The sample glove draped on the counter's hand mannequin looks almost ethereal as it points towards the universe, and standing beside it, Mirabelle looks untouchable.
If you are expecting to see Martin wearing his slapstick persona, you will be disappointed. Here, he plays a complex character whose wealth cannot replace his inability to connect. Martin's theme toys with identity and the ability to like us for who we are, rather than for who we appear to be. There could be no greater contrast than Martin's wealthy Ray and Jason Schwartzman's scruffy and gauche Jeremy, whose idea of foreplay is zipping his jacket up and down with serious intent. Schwartzman is funny and appealing in a lost-puppy sort of way, as he converts from crude and uncool to a genuinely sensitive new age guy. When Jeremy says he's one of those guys who become really fabulous as you get to know them, we are not really sure what he means at first. And when Ray tells Mirabelle the state of their relationship the way he sees it, their perception of what he has just said, is worlds apart.
Schwartzman provides the comedy relief from the moment Jeremy and Mirabelle meet at the local Laundromat. Their first love scene (he is wearing boxers with the word 'please?') is hilarious. Our hearts, meanwhile, are with Danes' vulnerable Mirabelle. The scenes between Danes and Martin are intentionally devoid of chemistry, mirroring the detached nature of their relationship, rather than make any statement about their age difference. Tennis wife Brigitte Wilson-Sampras is well cast as another shopgirl, a shapely beauty who is as available as Mirabelle is not.
Filled with subtleties, this bittersweet love story is ideal for thinkers. Thinkers, lovers and dreamers who want to connect.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The first thing is - this is not a Steve Martin comedy. It's a romantic comedy, but without the Martinisms. He's adapted his novella, a long short story with great charm and likeable characters; three people in a love triangle that allows the filmmakers to explore a multitude of layers and character observations.
Claire Danes is marvellous as Mirablle, the pivot, around whom the two men twirl. She is longing for affection and commitment, honesty and warmth.
Jason Schwartzman is entertaining as Jeremy, aimless and chaotic, slightly eccentric, poor, likeable but unfocused and unworldly. But he also yearns for connection.
Steve Martin plays Ray quite straight; he is worldly, mature, rich and focused. He knows what he wants: relationships with just enough traction to make them better than casual sex, but no commitment. His impossible dream is the emotional core of the film, which has an unusual but satisfying resolution (at least for the audience).
Anand Tucker's direction is beautifully controlled and balanced; he never allows the film to droop into maudlin or sink into sentimentality; indeed, he manages to keep the mood light but not flippant and the characters real, so we connect and empathise. It's a real little gem of a film.
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CAST: Steve Martin, Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman, Bridgette Wilson Sampras, Sam Bottoms, Frances Conroy, Rebecca Pidgeon, Samantha Shelton
PRODUCER: Ashok Armitraj, Jon J. Jashni, Steve Martin
DIRECTOR: Anand Tucker
SCRIPT: Steve Martin
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Suschitsky
EDITOR: David Gamble
MUSIC: Barrington Pheloung
PRODUCTION DESIGN: William Arnold
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 1, 2005