Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

30 October 2005


Shopgirl would be a sweet little romantic comedy if it weren't so sad. This isn't a bad thing. It is essentially a positive, happily-ending story and I don't want to give it away or anything, but Shopgirl is not your normal romantic movie.
Don't trust the trailer. The film isn't really about Claire Danes choosing between the quirky, messy, always-borrowing-two-dollars Jason Schwartzman and the put-together, wealthy, way-too-old-for-her-but-in-an-intriguing-way-and-not-a-gross-way Steve Martin. Shopgirl, based on Martin's novella of the same name is really about what we need--or, rather--what women need--or, rather--what Steve Martin seems to think they need. Women, you'll find out from Martin's seemingly omniscient narrator, need to be protected and respected and loved completely, which is okay, I guess.
The film is decent, often quite funny, and beautiful. Claire Danes is lovely and gives a wonderful, standout performance of haplessness coupled with grace. Jason Schwartzman is fun and self-deprecating and I find him strangely hot. Steve Martin gives the second Bill Murray performance of the year, pained and a little sickly throughout. The script is overly long and gets distracted rather often, but the jokes are funny and the script's exploration of what a young man has to offer over an older one is very interesting. The narration is the film's largest problem; it bookends the film and also inserts itself peskily into parts of the film that director Anand Tucker evidently thought needed explanation. (After their first date Martin's character narrates Danes's characters thoughts. Don't ask me to explain how this is possible, because I don't really think it makes much sense.) Really, the narration is little more than annoying and rarely helpful. Things Tucker has decided are too difficult to show us, he chooses to tell us through a voice we come to trust less and less as the film continues.
I should also say I liked the score, which is quite beautiful if a little insistent.

How will it fare with Oscar? Danes could get some awards notice come year's end, but I wouldn't expect much else from this picture.
Cheers, mates.

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