Shopgirl review by Matt Fuerst


Relationships - what a natural topic for film. Luckily few of us will ever really be chased by a dude toting a chainsaw wearing a dress, be forced to disarm a bomb in a parking structure, or fend off aliens attacking from Uranus. But we will all find ourselves in relationships in our life. Some of us more frequently than others, some of us feeling the highs and lows more than others, but gay, straight, black, white, male, female we're all in the same boat. Yet, relationships as a topic for serious film is pretty ignored by Hollywood ("But Matt", you say, "you dare mention serious film and Hollywood in the same breath?" I hear you, my brother and sisters, I hear you). For every Lost in Translation that squirts out of the pipe, we get ten Hitch's, Maid in Manhattan's and Gigli's. The romantic comedy genre isn't my bread and butter, but I can only torture my girlfriend with blaxplotation, black and white western and splatter horror movies for so long before I feel guilty enough that I have to rent something that looks cute and romantic. It helps being a movie fanatic, I am actually as happy as can be to watch a romantic comedy (and in general, they are much better films than you average splatter horror movie).

So, Steve Martin, The Jerk himself, brings us a tale he wrote as a novella, then wrote the screenplay, stars as a major character in, and in an odd decision, chooses to do some bizarre omniscient narration to as well. Our story is that of Mirabelle. Mirabelle is a relatively lonely young lady. Moving out to LA from Vermont to take a shot at the art world, Mirabelle finds herself living a quiet . She works at the counter of Saks as the "glove girl", a position that is as quiet as her nightlife. Her best friend is her cat, and her nightly routine seems to crescendo with her falling asleep every night to begin the next day again.

Hearing a call in talk show speak of love, Mirabelle decides she too should take a chance, and at least enjoy some physical comforts of a man, so she calls Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), an odd little man she met at the laundromat. Their dates are odd and uncomfortable, but Mirabelle sleeps with Jeremy anyway. Inspired by Mirabelle's completely offhanded comment he should do something with his life, Jeremy soon finds himself on an 8 month tour of the United States as an unpaid lackey for a rock band. Jeremy fades from Mirabelles memory (though Mirabelle remains top of mind for Jeremy) and she is about to settle into her quiet routine again when Ray Porter enters her life. (If I am making Mirabelle sound pretty passive in this process, it's quite intentional I assure you.) Ray is a successful software guy from Seattle, who has a weekend home in LA. Rich, old, single and interested in Mirabelle, the couple goes on several cold, more formal dates. Eventually, the damn breaks and Ray and Mirabelle make love for the first time. The morning after, Ray tries to tell Mirabelle that he wishes to stay uncommitted, but both participants leave the conversation with different ideas of what was said. Mirabelle convinces herself Ray is in for the long term, while Ray feels completely foot loose and fancy free.

And we've got our setup. Mirabelle and Ray get more serious in their relationship, while we've got Jeremy outside on the fringes of the story. It's an odd little setup that's actually quite unlike what you'd expect for this kind of story. It's normal to watch two people get involved, but obviously something is going to happen at some point with Jeremy. And quite predictably, things go astray. Ray's actions finally fall in line with his statements on his freedom, and ends up crumbling the foundation of the Ray/Mirabelle relationship. Just at the same time, Jeremy just so happens to roll back into town, and Mirabelle and Jeremy fall in love together.

We get a sappy ending, where Steve Martin, and the Ray character, plop themselves back into the story, both onscreen and in an omniscient voice over. Porter is bummed he let Mirabelle go, but realizes he is incapable of truly sharing love with Mirabelle, or really anyone. Porter reminisces about this and the characters in his voice over. Hey, I'm a huge fan of the voiceover, do that in a noir story and it works sweet. Here, I find it an extremely odd decision. The voice is that of Steve Martin, but is the voice in the movie that of Ray Porter, Martin's character, or is Porter narrating this story himself? Either way, it's a pretty odd decision, this is Mirabelle's story, not Porter's, so why would Porter narrate that? Speaks in third person of everyone, yet has first hand knowledge of the characters. Totally baffling. This sort of stuff is probably only of interest to a movie nerd like myself (my girlfriend looked at me weird when I brought it up) but it does make Shopgirl stand out.

Still, some really... interesting style decisions aside, this is a pretty good little romantic-comedy-slice-of-life type flick. Not my bread and butter, but I can honestly say if you like this sort of thing, or are looking for a nice little date movie, you can do far worse.

6 out of 10 Jackasses
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