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Tue November 1, 2005
Much better than an afternoon at the mall.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
It's been a long time since I've seen a film that treats adult romance with the respect it deserves. Shopgirl has the charm of a mature look at trying to connect meaningfully in the city, Los Angeles specifically. As in My First Mister, the young woman, in this case Claire Dane's Mirabelle Buttersfield recently emigrating from Vermont, falls in love with Steve Martin's Roy Butler, a wealthy ex computer operative with unlimited funds to give Mirabelle presents and nobly steer away from commitment.
That's the way modern romance sometimes goes with one partner not the same age as the other, not as wealthy or not as ready to commit. Like many of her young women today, the admirable Mirabelle is all of the above and offering only herself, an artist working a counter at Saks, lonely and frustrated enough to succumb to young Jason Schwartzman's Jeremy Kraft, an unkempt amplifier salesman palming himself off as a "stenciling" artist. But director Anand Tucker deftly makes the polar opposite males a soft struggle for Mirabelle's emerging womanhood.
The cinematography captures the slightly glossy world of half dream, somewhere between the sparkling Breakfast at Tiffany's romantic atmosphere and the equally alluring poverty of the Village or Soho. Writer/actor Steve Martin's occasional voice over commentary about the vagaries of love, especially Butler's inability to commit to Mirabelle, lends an almost fairy-tale tone to a romantic tale that miraculously straddles the best fictions about illusion and reality. The scenes at Universal's CityWalk best express the hip, sentimental, isolating world of a twenty something shopgirl vulnerable to love yet growing with each imperfect encounter. Danes is the perfect actress, Martin the perfect Truman Capote for a look at the new New York---Los Angeles.
Shopgirl is a short story telling a little tale about souls in search of love and finding a form of it that carries laughter, disappointment, and transformation in its shopping bag. It's much better than an afternoon at the mall.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com