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Twenty-something native Vermonter Mirabelle Buttersfield, having recently graduated from college, is finding her new life in Los Angeles not quite what she was expecting or hoping. An aspiring artist, she is barely eking out a living working as a clerk at the women's evening gloves counter at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills and thus she can barely make the payments on her massive student loans. She treats her job with a certain distance, often daydreaming as she watches the life of the rich as they shop at the store. She has made no friends, including from among her Saks colleagues, and thus lives a solitary existence, which does not assist in her dealing with her chronic clinical depression. So it is with some surprise that two men with a romantic interest in her enter her life almost simultaneously. The first is poor slacker Jeremy, who works as an amplifier salesman/font designer. Mirabelle continues dating Jeremy as only a relief to her solitary life, as Jeremy doesn't seem to ... Written by
A tender story about a young woman's coming of age
Shopgirl is about a young 20-something woman, Mirabelle (Claire Danes) who works selling gloves at Saks Fifth Avenue in L.A. She spends most of her day behind the counter with not much to do and at night she goes home alone to her apartment in Silverlake, with only her cat to keep her company. She dreams of being an artist and of a man who will one day sweep her off her feet and awaken her drab and lifeless existence.
Later on she meets two completely different men. The first one she meets is Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), who works as a font designer for a company that sells amplifiers to rock bands. Jeremy is hopelessly clueless about the nuances of romance, naive, bumbling, and goofy. However, Mirabelle does plant the seeds of ambition in his mind to go out and do something significant in his life, which he does in going out on the road with a rock band. Toward the end of the movie, we see that Jeremy has changed for the better, and he evolves as a person as well. He was very funny and the surprising comic relief in the film. The scene where the gold-digging rival shopgirl Lisa (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras) mistakes Jeremy for Ray Porter was especially funny.
The second one is Ray Porter (Steve Martin), a handsome, rich, sophisticated older man who meets Mirabelle at Saks and buys a pair of gloves from her. He then sends her the gloves as a present and asks her out to dinner. Mirabelle is intrigued by Ray and decides to go out to dinner with him. She thinks it is flattering that he has noticed her. Once she gets to know him, she falls in love. Ray thinks he makes it clear to her that he isn't looking for a serious commitment. Mirabelle, however, is serious about Ray and loves him completely. This is where the complications ensue in their relationship.
Martin's performance was smooth, polished, and charming, but also emotionally detached, as his Ray Porter character struggles not to become emotionally involved with Mirabelle, but it was evident in the things that he does for her that he cared her for almost in a paternal way. I never thought of Martin as a dashing leading man, but he excelled in his role. No one else could have played Ray Porter, as it was his story and he understood the characters better than anyone. Martin and Danes exhibited a kind of wonderful chemistry together, a special kind of sexual tension that crackled on the screen, especially in the scene where she is waiting on his bed for him nude and they make love for the first time or when Mirabelle puts on the gloves that Ray has bought for her and she is wearing nothing else.
The character of Mirabelle is a girl one would consider a "plain jane", not the most physically beautiful, but Danes's performance conveyed a kind of inner beauty that radiated from within, very much a spiritual beauty. Especially in the scenes with Martin, she had a sensuality of a woman who really experiences passion and love for the first time in her life, and pain.
Throughout the movie we can see the kind of evolution that takes place from a woman who is shy, timid, and almost emotionless to someone who is more confident, more grown-up and self-assured. Why Danes was not nominated for a Golden Globe or an Oscar is beyond me. She was completely convincing and believable as Mirabelle and brought the character of the lonely, troubled, beautiful young woman to life.
However, this movie is not without flaws. One of the biggest is the score. I believe the score was meant to be like an homage to the old Hollywood movies of 30s & 40s, but it was intrusive, over-the-top, and very melodramatic. I believe less would have been more in the case of a movie like Shopgirl. Another flaw was the narration. Martin's narration of the scenes in the movie were self-explanatory and completely unnecessary.
Overall, the movie was excellent, wonderful, funny, sad and very faithful to Martin's novella. I would recommend reading the novella first before seeing the movie, as the novella is also very good. It is a good romantic date movie. Good performances by all, especially Ms. Danes. It took an interesting perspective on the May/December romance, through the eyes of a female protagonist, even though the story was written by a man. It also said a lot about what men and women expect from relationships, and how love can be heartbreaking and painful, yet wonderful and beautiful at the same time. It is also about a woman discovering more about life, love, and most of all, herself. Highly recommended.
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