Last night, my roommate and I ventured (slightly) beyond MIT’s campus to see “Shopgirl,” a movie based on a novella by Steve Martin. Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman, and Steve Martin star in this supposed comedy that has promise but lacks substance and believability.
Claire Danes plays Mirabelle, a shy 26 year-old sales clerk at Saks Fifth Avenue, who spends her nights reading novels and making charcoal drawing in her dark and lonely apartment. One night at the Laundromat, she meets Jeremy, a self proclaimed “font designer,” and thus begins a series of painfully awkward scenes that leave you squirming in your seat. Awkward situations at MIT arise from accidentally hitting on your TA or forgetting the name of someone you see everyday and have been introduced to on numerous occasions. Awkward situations in “Shopgirl” arise from Jeremy begging for a goodnight kiss or sitting in silence outside of a movie theater on a date just to watch the fluorescent lights but not to actually go inside because tickets are too expensive. Jeremy is just so immature and blunt that he will make anyone instantly feel as suave and confident as James Bond.
And with the introduction of Ray, a 60 year-old logician who made a fortune in the computer industry, comes a whole new level of strangeness. Mirabelle first meets Ray when she helps him pick out a pair of gloves at Saks, which he proceeds to mail to her after doing a little Facebookesque stalking. They meet for dinner, where conversation is forced and trite, and the audience can’t help but be a little disturbed by the obvious age difference. Basically, Ray showers Mirabelle with expensive meals, gifts, and trips because he likes sleeping with her while she thinks the relationship has a future.
Mirabelle is forced to choose between Ray and Jeremy, two men that are as opposite as any two people can be. Ray owns a private jet, has two ultramodern homes with breathtaking views, and gives Mirabelle all of the material possessions she could dream of. Jeremy lives in a dump, travels around with a mediocre band for a few months, but offers Mirabelle a chance at real love. Her decision between the two men is rather elegantly portrayed, but don’t expect much of a plot, just sit back and enjoy the movie.
“Shopgirl” reminded me of “Lost in Translation,” except it was missing its unique cultural observations and superb acting by Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. I expected a lot from the movie because I consider Steve Martin to be a comedic genius, but most of my laughs were more from pity than anything else. But, though the movie felt long, the hundred-some minutes went by effortlessly and left me with a slightly different perspective on life. My recommendation would be to wait for it to come out on DVD, that is, unless you just did something really embarrassing and want to feel better about yourself.