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Shopgirl (2005)

DVD Cover (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
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5.9
 / 10
3 votes
Genres:
Comedy Drama, Coming-Of-Age, Romantic Drama
Director:
Anand Tucker Anand Tucker
Starring:
Steve Martin Steve Martin
Claire Danes Claire Danes
Jason Schwartzman Jason Schwartzman
Bridgette Wilson-Sampras Bridgette Wilson-Sampras
Sam Bottoms Sam Bottoms
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: November 26, 2005
Damn, Damn, Damn. So many good films...only ten spots on my end of the year list. It's getting down to the wire, and as is usually the case, I am hammered with a plethora of amazing motion pictures during November and December. I have changed my #1 spot about ten times so far in 2005 and it looks like it might change another ten times before the end of the year. My original #1 is not even in the top twenty anymore - I have seen that many amazing pictures since then. This becomes a problem in that - why was this film a #1 so many months ago, and does it deserve to be on the list now, so many months later? I liked this #2 better than the #1 from a few months ago, so maybe I should move it higher on the list? It all gets so very confusing. As of this moment, right now, the number one spots goes to "The Weather Man", which I saw last weekend. As for "Shopgirl", it would certainly be somewhere in my top ten. Will it make it until the end of the year? Who knows. By this time in January, it might not even be in the top twenty. However, that seems unlikely considering it is one of the best films of the year, and a must-see for anyone worth a damn.

Based on the insightful novella by Steve Martin, "Shopgirl" tells the story of Mirabelle Buttersfield, a young Vermont beauty who travels to Los Angeles to work on her art, and at the glove counter at Saks Fifth Avenue. Mirabelle seems lonely and somewhat sad. She doesn't have any real friends, other than her cat, and she takes antidepressants every night to help her with her feelings. One day, at the laundromat, she meets Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), a grungy artist who strikes up conversation, eventually leading to their going on a date, on which Jeremy does everything wrong and ends up borrowing money from her for a movie. The two become friends, and share somewhat of an awkward, meaningless physical attraction. Then, one day, a man named Ray Porter (Steve Martin) walks into Mirabelle's world. He purchases a pair of gloves from her and then she finds those same gloves at her front door, with a note asking her out for dinner. She accepts and the two begin their relationship. Ray is a wealthy middle-aged man who makes it moderately clear that he doesn't want a serious relationship, though Mirabelle falls for him fast and hard. In some ways, their relationship seems more father/daughter than lover/lover. Ray sees Mirabelle whenever he is in town, lavishes her with expensive gifts, and seems to be the perfect man. Alas, Ray does not want anything too serious and he begins hurting Mirabelle, though unintentionally. Re-enter Jeremy, who has been on the road with a band for several months and has been getting advice on romance from books-on-tape. By the end of the film, the tryst ends, and only two remain, but don't let that fool you in the slightest - "Shopgirl" is not about "who will she choose". It is much more than that.

The film, like the book, is told very much like a fairy tale, with Steve Martin narrating. Mirabelle is the heroine, a beautiful innocent who wants love more than anything else in the world. Ray is the dashing and handsome Prince Charming who has everything she needs, except the one thing she really wants. Jeremy is the Ugly Duckling who has to go on a quest to find himself before he can become a handsome prince like Ray. "Shopgirl" gives us three likable characters, makes us fall in love with them, and then basically asks us to pick which ones we like the best. Ray is not a bad guy - even when he is treating Mirabelle badly, we know he does not want to hurt her, and we know that he loves her, even though he cannot bring himself to say it out loud. We know that Jeremy is a good guy, even though he does everything wrong, and seems doomed to romantic failure for the rest of his life. And, Mirabelle is a troubled girl who is emotionally fragile and timid in love. She is afraid of rejection, afraid of being alone, and afraid of losing what she has. She seems happiest when she is with Ray, but maybe that is merely because Ray offers her security and peace of mind.

Artistically, "Shopgirl" was far more whimsical than I had imagined. Director Anand Tucker directs the film very much like a fairy tale, with the amazing panoramic shots, the slow motion sequences, and the exquisite use of light, the best I have seen this year. Nothing turns a film into a fairy tale more than the use of light, and this film captures that perfectly. The original score by Barrington Pheloung is powerful and unusual. It is used consistently throughout the film and the score represents Mirabelle more than anything else. It is one of the best musical selections I have heard this year and, hopefully, Oscar will reward it with a nomination. "Shopgirl" is just a simple story with a beautiful and lavish production that only add to the significance of the script. Also adding to the script are the three outstanding performances from the leads. Claire Danes is absolutely ravishing in this role, already stirring up some Oscar buzz from some film critics. She makes Mirabelle come alive with youthful exuberance and uncanny wisdom. Steve Martin, in one of his finest roles to date, is everything Ray Porter needs to be. We feel their relationship and we see how he falls in love with Mirabelle, without actually falling in love with her. Then, there's the always enjoyable Jason Schwartzman, playing a character toned down a little from his usual eccentric fare. He is humorous, adorable, and sometimes even romantic in his best performance to date.

All-in-all, you will be hard-pressed to find any film half as engrossing as "Shopgirl". They just hit all of the right notes. The trailers lead you to believe this film is all about "who will she choose", but nothing could be further from the truth. Mirabelle is never actually seeing both me at the same time - they come and go in her life at different stages. We know who she is probably going to choose when a decision has to be made, but the real beauty comes in watching how that decision is eventually made. The last scene outside the gallery between Martin and Danes is one of the sweetest and most beautifully performed scenes of the year. It is filled with the emotion and regret that we expect, made better by Martin's sincerity and Dane's innocence. "Shopgirl" is a one of a kind motion picture, one of the best of the year, and the best romantic comedy I have ever seen.

9.5/10.
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Tristan #1: Tristan - added 04/20/2006, 02:58 PM
I just downloaded this, and it's got to be one of the best movies I've seen in awhile. Jason Schwartzman has a kind of knack for breathing life into a low-key indie film.
Shakes #2: Shakes - added 01/22/2009, 12:18 PM
Wonderfully romantic film. 10/10 easily. I plan on reading the book soon.
Shakes #3: Shakes - added 01/23/2009, 07:09 AM
I love Claire Danes. she's also a 10/10
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