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Shopgirl - Review

Steve Martin and Claire Danes in Shopgirl

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary; Trailers; Inside Look.

IN DECIDING to adapt his own novella into a film of the same name, Steve Martin has actually helped to produce one of his best films in ages.

Shopgirl is a million miles away from the onerous ‘comedy’ of his Cheaper By The Dozen movies, or Bringing Down The House, emerging instead as a sophisticated romantic comedy guided by some sparkling performances.

Claire Danes stars as Mirabelle Buttersfield, the shopgirl of the title, who finds herself stuck on the glove counter of a plush department store having moved to LA in the hope of realising her ambition of becoming an artist.

Desperate for companionship, she agrees to date a socially inept font designer, Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), who she continues seeing despite an awkward first sexual encounter.

But her commitment to their relationship is put to the test when she meets charming dot-com millionaire, Ray Porter (Martin), who seduces her with the promise that he can provide her with everything she wants.

When Jeremy then goes on tour with an emerging band in order to find himself, Mirabelle begins to fall in love with Ray, only to grow frustrated at how emotionally detached he remains. It isn’t long, therefore, before she must choose between the two of them…

Shopgirl contains obvious parallels to Lost In Translation yet takes things much further in the relationship between Martin’s older man and Danes’ young beauty.

As such, it can be a little awkward to watch, particularly during the intimate scenes, but remains a compelling experience that isn’t afraid to treat its viewers as grown-ups.

As a result, it succeeds in drawing some terrific performances from its stars with Danes especially grabbing the opportunity to explore the complexity of her role, offsetting the desperate loneliness she feels with the desire to make the right choice.

Schwartzman and Martin make interesting opposites too, providing a frequently amusing contrast between the jerky comedy of the former with the laidback cool of the latter.

The love triangle that ensues leads to a bittersweet yet satisfying conclusion.

The film isn’t without flaws, however, given that Martin’s voiceover feels tacked on and unnecessary, while some of the love scenes hint at a little wish fulfilment on his part.

But given his tendency to ‘play it safe’ with family-friendly material of late, it’s refreshing to find Martin taking a bit of a gamble for a change. It’s a gamble that pays rich dividends for the audience.

Cerificate: 15
Running time: 1hr 43mins