Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Friday, October 28, 2005

Seattle P.I. says P.U.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Friday, October 28, 2005
'Shopgirl's' first mistake: Steve Martin plays it straight

Steve Martin produced, wrote the screenplay (from his own novella) and stars in "Shopgirl," and reportedly was so involved in all the behind-the-camera decision-making that he probably could claim a co-directing credit. So it's the closest thing to an auteur-shot he's ever made.


DIRECTOR: Anand Tucker
CAST: Steve Martin, Claire Danes,
Jason Schwartzman
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
RATING: R for some sexual content and language
WHERE: Meridian 16, Seven Gables


Yet, surprisingly, the movie has little of his distinctive humor. In fact, it's barely a comedy at all. It's more of a whimsical and melancholy love story, and the earnest, slightly self-pitying, expression of a comedian who wants to be taken seriously.

Shot in 2003, and edited and re-edited for well over a year, the film occasionally sparks with life, but it's aspirations of being a quirky, inter-generational romance in the same league with "Lost in Translation" fail, and the weak link in the acting department is Martin himself.

Framed as a kind of modern urban fairy tale and narrated by the Martin character, it tells the story of a sensitive young sales clerk (Claire Danes), who has journeyed to L.A. from her Vermont home with aspirations of being an artist.

She's also, of course, looking for true love, and, after a long, lonely dry spell, she finds herself torn between two candidates: a goofy slacker (Jason Schwartzman) and a divorced, late-50-ish computer magnate (Martin) who commutes between L.A. and Seattle.

Since the younger suitor is as lovable as a pooh bear and the older one is a well-meaning but selfish case of arrested development who can't commit to a relationship, the love triangle is a bit one-sided and doesn't turn out to be much of a contest.

The film's comedy is given to Schwartzman, who we see humorously on the road with a rock band and being seduced by Danes' beautiful but hateful co-worker (Bridgette Wilson). He's cute, but the comedy is forced and out of sync with the rest of the story.

The film's modest success as a romance is due almost entirely to Danes. Without a trace of the mannerisms and affectation that have marred so many of her performances, she's as vulnerable, appealing and believable here as she's ever been on the big screen.

Martin is less so. He plays his character very straight, and, while this worked for him in the "The Spanish Prisoner," it doesn't here. Without the saving grace of comedy, his natural abrasiveness is off-putting, and he just doesn't have the stuff of a romantic lead.


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