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I was in New York City this weekend to see my favorite godson. And it just happened to be the opening weekend for Shopgirl in New York. Who knows when it will get to this godforsaken place so I had to see it. Orsola and I bought our tickets on Fandango but when we got to the theatre, we were told that the time had been listed wrongly. But then we had a truly nice experience. The manager himself talked to us, apologized, gave us tickets for the next day, and told us we could see any other movie that evening for free. Nice guy. We saw Elizabethtown that night and came back to see Shopgirl the next night. I've been looking forward to this movie ever since I heard it was coming out. It is based on a very good little book written by Steve Martin. This is a guy who first became famous performing with an arrow through his head, and then appeared in such highbrow cinema as The Jerk and Three Amigos. But every so often he would slip up and make something like Pennies From Heaven, Roxanne or Leap of Faith. And now with the publication of Shopgirl and his second book, The Pleasure of his Company, his cover is completely blown. Martin wrote the screenplay, produced and stars in the film version of Shopgirl. Which is my way of saying that we may be seeing a bit of the real Steve Martin here.
Shopgirl tells the story of a young woman (Claire Danes) who is in a dead-end job selling gloves at Saks. She is an artist but has never had a show. And she is lonely. Suddenly, her life begins to change when she meets two potential boyfriends (Steve Martin & Jason Schwartzman). Martin plays a very smart, very successful businessman with severe commitment problems. Schwartzman plays a well meaning but hopeless young man on the fringe of the music business. Danes likes all the attention but opts for Martin as the better bet, not recognizing his lack of longterm interest. Schwartzman, rejected yet inspired, goes off to better himself on the road with a rock band. I won't give away any more of the plot but what goes around, comes around.
Shopgirl isn't a perfect film but I quite liked it. I still recommend reading the book, but they did a good job of bringing it to the screen. I like Danes, Martin and Schwartzman a lot and it's great to see them together. Danes has been doing some nice supporting roles lately (Igby Goes Down, The Hours) but she shows here that she can star also. Danes character is partially based on a real artist, Allyson Hollingsworth, who did the artwork used in the film. Steve Martin is perfect for his role in Shopgirl, so perfect that you have to wonder why it's so easy for him to play someone who is smart, interesting, but emotionally detached. Schwartzman is good too but I thought his roadie subplot didn't fit in very well with the rest of the movie. BTW, Schwartzman is yet another successful 2nd generation member of the Coppola family. His mother is Talia "Adrian" Shire. His cousins are Nicholas Cage and Sofia Coppola. The director of Shopgirl, Anand Tucker, hasn't done much else but he did direct Hilary and Jackie which was strange but good. I'd have to say the same thing about Shopgirl. It is slow and atmospheric except when the manic Schwartzman is onscreen. He has great energy, as he showed to great effect in Rushmore, but here his character almost throws the film off its axis. The key characters are Danes and Martin. Both their characters are repressed. They are stuck emotionally and this is holding them back. They both must decide whether to jump off a cliff and take a chance with each other and with the rest of their lives.
I hope Shopgirl goes into wide release so you can see it. As usual, the films I like don't always (ever?) do very well. Proof, for example, seems to be sinking without a trace. Oh well, go see Shopgirl if you can.