Shopgirl


Directed by: Anand Tucker
Written by:Steve Martin
Starring: Steve Martin, Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Sam Bottoms, Frances Conroy
Released: December 1, 2005
Grade: C+

We all know Steve Martin as a great actor but you might be surprised to hear some of this other achievements in life.  He started out as a stand-up comedian and won back-to-back Grammy Awards in 1977 and 1978 in the category of best comedy recording.  He plays the banjo and won another Grammy in 2001 in the category of best country instrumental performance for appearing in the Earl Scruggs and Friends video for "Foggy Mountain Breakdown”.  He collects art and is a trustee at the Los Angeles Museum Of Art.

In 2000, Steve Martin published his first fiction novel.  Entitled Shopgirl, it was the story of a quiet young lady who worked at a plush department in Los Angeles.  After being single for some time, she finds herself being pursued by two possible suitors.  One is an elderly millionaire who can give her anything with a price-tag but cannot give her a life-long commitment.  The other is a free-spirited musician who needs lessons in maturity and has hardly a cent to his name.

The novel has now been brought to the screen with Claire Danes (Romeo & Juliet), Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore) and Steve Martin in the three roles.  The last time I can recall Steve Martin appearing in a drama was in David Mamet’s brilliant The Spanish Prisoner.  His role in Shopgirl gives Martin the opportunity to be subtle and mysterious.  It’s a pleasant change from his recent garbage comedies including Cheaper By The Dozen and Bringing Down The House.

The film starts a little slowly but there’s intrigue as Ray (Martin) begins to court the willing Mirabelle (Danes).  Sadly however, the film doesn’t progress past this point.  The story loses momentum and we are left with several musical interludes where we watch the characters go about their business to the backdrop of a soft piano melody.  It may sound nice if you’re sitting on a balcony overlooking the city with a glass of red wine.  It doesn’t sound as nice if you’re sitting in a movie theatre getting restless from an over-abundance of reflective scenes.

I have respect for the talented cast but Shopgirl is a tiring romantic drama that never generates much passion or interest.