Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Steve offers some new words on Shopgirl

Daily Variety
December 16, 2005 Friday
EYE ON THE OSCARS: BEST PICTURE: Love's slings and arrows

Don't jump off that cliff, stop guzzling the Absinthe, and for heaven's sake, cut it out with that vituperative blogging. If you're suffering the aftereffects of a romance that, in rueful hindsight, seemed doomed from the start, do what the Elizabethans did: Go to your local theater.
For just as 16th-century brooders checked out William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" for a dose of shock empathy, so this year's moviegoers could discover their own romantic plights writ large on the silver screen. Two thousand-five was indeed Hollywood's year of the doomed romance.
Even summer behemoths like "The Interpreter" (he's an FBI agent; she's a guerrilla) and "Star Wars III" (she's the good queen, he's bad to the bone) didn't escape the specter of star-crossed attraction. By the time fall rolled around the theme pretty much took root with "The Constant Gardener," which centered around a withdrawn British diplomat, Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), and his wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz), a firebrand muckraker.
In "Gardener's" wake, love in the time of melancholia would surface again in "Shopgirl" and "Walk the Line," as well as the upcoming "Brokeback Mountain," "Match Point," "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "The New World," in which a high-born Indian princess and a renegade English adventurer flirt with the notion of a harmonic convergence despite two cultures at cross purposes.
But love conquers all, at least when movie magic is cooking.
Blind leading the blind
The romantic comedy, "Shopgirl," written by Steve Martin from his own short novel, adopts a different stance. In place of thrills, we get a tonally minor-key realism, in which an affair between a middle-aged, wealthy entrepreneur, Ray Porter (Martin) and a young department-store clerk, Mirabelle (Claire Danes) stays casual for the guy, but gets serious for the girl. Again, sex opens the show.
"I often wonder about men or women who are searching for somebody," Martin says, "but until they meet that person what do they do in the meantime?"
In "Shopgirl," men, at least, go for what's out there.
"That was very important part of the story," the writer-star asserts. "He was on the prowl in a nice, gentle way. He set out to meet a girl that he fancies."
Ah, fancy. For years Hollywood has staged battles on the line between fancy and love. Ernst Lubitsch picnicked out in that dreamy "No Man's Land," even directing a masterpiece, "Heaven Can Wait" (1943), that plunged into the morality of each (as usual with Lubitsch's plunging, he --- and Don Ameche and Gene Tierney --- came back up smiling).
But however things may end, the course of a star-crossed love affair progresses with the blind leading the blind. Who is honest about their motives --- who even knows their motives? Interestingly, Martin leaves the door ajar when it comes to Porter's own attitudes. For a character he created and plays, he is only willing to hazard a guess --- a good guess, no doubt --- as to motives:
"I think that he always knew it was temporary and never went back on that belief."
Hence the melancholy that permeates "Shopgirl."
"The entire purpose of the story is to tell a romance that is doomed," Martin says coolly. "In many romantic comedies --- it's a solid tradition --- the couple falls in love, but you really don't know what happens next. 'Shopgirl' deals with what happens."


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