Anand Tucker’s old- and new-fashioned romance Shopgirl observes love and heartbreak across generations in dreamy Los Angeles. Steve Martin and Claire Danes co-star in this charmer based on Martin’s novella Shopgirl.
Shopgirl in Tinseltown
Mirabelle (Danes) works at the Saks Fifth Avenue glove department, surrounded by graceful, begloved arms reaching upward. She reinvents herself as a beauty who still retains her Vermont country girl roots. By night Mirabelle follows her heart, creating black and white etchings.
A one-night stand with Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), a broke, slovenly entrepreneur who wooed her at a laundromat, is filled with hijinx. Mirabelle is deflated until a mystery suitor at the store sparks her love life.
Mystery suitor charms Mirabelle
Ray Porter (Martin) is the handsome, white-haired stranger who buys a pair of black gloves from Mirabelle. When the gloves are mailed to her with an invitation to dinner, she is stunned.
Schwartzman provides ample comic relief as Jeremy goes on a road trip with a rock band. Mirabelle has dismissed him. All he can do is think about her. Jeremy wants to become the kind of man Mirabelle could cherish. In fact, he’d like to respect himself more. Striving to improve, he listens to guided meditations on headphones as the tour bus lumbers along. He reads self-improvement books.
Life as fairy tale
Shopgirl assumes a fairy tale quality as Tucker films downtown L.A. nightscapes to full advantage, along with scenes in hip restaurants and Ray’s trendy home.
Divorced Ray wines and dines Mirabelle, asking that they stop short of commitment. He travels a lot, he tells her. One comedic sequence shows Mirabelle reporting Ray’s words to her girlfriends, crosscut with Ray summarizing their relationship to his therapist. It’s a classic case of Venus and Mars wanting different things from a relationship.
Mirabelle and Ray discuss their situation. She knows the relationship is unlikely to endure. Ray buys her dresses and jewelry. He is interested in her, caring and tender. He invites her to go with him to New York City for a weekend. She is ecstatic.
Finally Ray decides to be honest with Mirabelle. The bubble bursts.
Martin’s bemused, worldly wise humor shines throughout. As a gentleman opportunist, Ray Porter becomes one of his best roles to date.
What is real romance?
Mirabelle hears the call to step up and embrace real romance in her life. She takes several key steps to accomplish this.
Martin sums up the tale in voiceovers. Mirabelle wants to share her heart with someone. Ray wants only part of her. This is life. (5 out of 5 stars)
If you like Shopgirl, you might enjoy: An Education.
Shopgirl 2005 / R / 1 hour, 46 min
Cast Overview: Steve Martin, Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman, Bridgette Wilson, Rebecca Pidgeon, Shawn Christian, Frances Conroy
Director: Anand Tucker
Genres: Romance, Romantic Comedy