Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Moviella -- what a great word
Movie Review by Sean Conover
Published: October 21, 2005
One thing is for sure: Steve Martin has an interesting and unique view on relationships.
Since the 1970's when he leapt into the public consciousness as a "wild and cra-zee guy," Martin has grown into a respectable actor, writer and Producer, in particular with 1987's "Roxanne." The sweet retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac was laced with light humor and approachable characters that connected with audiences with the story's tenderness and humanity. A few years later, "L.A. Story" didn't quite connect with the masses, but it is arguably one of the best films to ever attempt to portray relationships from the California-point-of-view. Since then, Martin has stared in many films ranging from the forgettable "Sgt. Bilko" to the father-we-all-wish-we-had in "Father of the Bride," but with the exception of 1994's tepid "A Simple Twist of Fate," he's stayed away from the relationship theme. That is, until 2001, when he published his so-called 'novella' Shopgirl. At a slim 130 pages, stretching the short story into an hour and forty-minute film - without extra filler - must have been a challenge. Then again, Martin has that interesting and unique vision, and again he succeeds.
The basic premise of the story revolves around Mirabelle Buttersfield (Claire Danes), a single, young twenty-something girl from Vermont working at the women's formal glove counter at Saks Fifth Avenue in Los Angeles. She is an introverted artist-type and spends her free time in her meager and drab apartment creating black-and-white charcoal sketches, and her work time standing on her two feet watching couples walk by and wondering why she isn't one-half of a couple herself. She meets Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman) in the Laundromat and while they start to date, the two of them don't seem like a match for each other. When the wealthy, and decidedly older, Ray Porter (Martin) sweeps her off her feet, Jeremy and Mirabelle go their separate ways on their own voyages of self-discovery. As Jeremy travels the rock 'n roll roadie highway, Mirabelle journeys down her own path with Ray, and they both attempt to comprehend what it is they want in life and love.
Stealing a bit of the character quirkiness from "Roxanne" and the sensibility of Los Angeles from "L.A. Story," Martin creates a sweet mixture where the joy is in the character development. The relationship between Mirabelle and Ray takes up a majority of the story, and we watch as Mirabelle goes full circle from loneliness to love to hurt to loneliness, only to end up continuing the never-ending cycle again. The beautifully plain Claire Danes is perfect in her role as Mirabelle. Simple and diminutive, she is unassuming and likeable, and you just know there is something beneath the surface waiting to be set free. You feel for her when she is lonely, you're happy for her when she feels love, and you hurt for her when she cries. As Jeremy, Schwartzman brings almost all of the major humor to the film, and has most of the best lines. He is so unassuming and not your typical Hollywood star, we can easily feel a connection with Jeremy as well. Both he and Mirabelle could be your Average Joe; the person behind the counter at the mall or the burgeoning artist at the t-shirt shop. Thankfully, Martin sticks to the role that suits him best, the sweet, charming older fellow that we all wish we could call our friend.
The relationship between Ray and Mirabelle does have an awkward feel to it, however, and gives an uncomfortable feel to the story. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the so-called May-December relationship, to watch the now 60-year old Martin lying in bed with Danes who is in her mid-twenties just feels wrong. Who knows? Maybe it’s just me.
In the end, the film could be compared to such recent character-driven films such as "Broken Flowers" and "Lost in Translation” (both of which star an older man – and SNL alum – Bill Murray); films that aren't large in scope but are instead deep in meaning. This is a snapshot of a period in Mirabelle's development in life, and it is enjoyable to go along for that emotional ride. Steve Martin has adapted his unique view yet again into a quirky, sweet and rife story with enjoyable characters. “Shopgirl” is by no means an epic, but instead can be perfectly summed up as: 'A Moviella.'
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