HELP US KEEP REPORTING. DONATE TO ORLANDO WEEKLY PRESS CLUB.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH

Posted on Thu, Nov 3, 2005 at 4:00 AM

****
Shopgirl
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rated: R
Website: http://shopgirl.movies.go.com/
Release Date: 2005-11-04
Cast: Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman, Steve Martin, Frances Conroy, Sam Bottoms
Director: Anand Tucker
Screenwriter: Steve Martin
Music Score: Barrington Pheloung
WorkNameSort: Shopgirl
Our Rating: 4.00

Even when it's shot through with apology, a June-November romance like Shopgirl is full of unsavory implications. For all the castigation of older-male behavior that writer/star Steve Martin gets up to in this allegedly autobiographical story of cross-generational dalliance, a feminist critic could easily argue that the movie is still an excuse for an aging vanity case to get his face in the same frame as Claire Danes' ass. And then to profess guilt over it, which is even worse.

Though both of those things happen in Martin's adaptation of his well-received novella, our misgivings are muted by his surprisingly astute depictions of gender-specific longing. Title heroine Mirabelle Buttersfield (Danes), a saleswoman at Los Angeles' Saks Fifth Avenue and a part-time artist, is surrounded by images of unattainable affluence and romantic satisfaction as she waits for the man who's just right for her. The goofy, perennially broke Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman) is too much of a shambles, but brighter prospects arrive in the form of successful divorcé Ray Porter (Martin). He seduces Mirabelle by buying her a pair of Saks' own gloves, instigating a relationship based more on mutual curiosity than honesty. Ray is genuinely taken with Mirabelle, but his toying with her has a shelf life, and she knows it. Yet deep down, she's hoping for the infinite.

The film works largely because of Danes, whose child-woman routine appeals to our purest feelings of protectiveness (read: not paternalism). Smart, funny and sad, she once again proves herself the thinking man's Natalie Portman. Martin's Ray is more of a cipher, perhaps not tragically so; one look at the title reveals that the story is not about him. A well-chosen soundtrack of plaintive tunes supports the atmosphere of pending loss. It's feel-good fatalism.

The movie's grip tends to slacken; an interlude in which Jeremy goes on the road with a rock band reveals that the character is only amusing when he's surrounded by people who have some idea of how to behave in the first place. By the time he returns, though, the script has put its two other leads through paces of intimacy and detachment that ring with real-world resignation. Shopgirl has a knack for showing people caught between their farthest-ranging dreams and the needs of the moment. And that's every one of us – regardless of age, sex or the gloves we can afford.

Tags:

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at feedback@orlandoweekly.com.

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 21, 2020

View more issues

Calendar

© 2020 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation