Aiming for a Lost In Translation vibe, this adaptation of a Steve Martinnovella replaces Scarlett Johansson with Claire Danes and Bill Murray withMartin himself. It comes from Anand Tucker, the director of Hilary andJackie, and attempts to transcend its May to December romance from Mills & Boon into a potential awards contender.
Mirabelle (Claire Danes) is a shopgirl. Working on the glove counter in ahigh-profile department store and then creating pieces of art at night, sheleads a lonely existence. But her life takes a dramatic change when twocompletely different men enter her desolate life. First there is the flakyJeremy (Jason Schwartzman) who fumbles with the rules of dating and leavesMirabelle unimpressed. Then there is the rich, older Ray (Steve Martin) whoshowers Mirabelle with gifts and expensive meals. She is in awe of theirburgeoning relationship but Ray has other ideas of what he believes theirrelationship is.
The biggest problem with Shopgirl is Steve Martin. Seeing as he wrotethe source material and was the same age as its male lead, it obviouslyseemed a shoe-in that he would star in the film adaptation. But he isterribly miscast in the role. He struggles with the dramatic elements of thefilm and doesn’t pull off the slick and suave businessman persona. It’s neverclear what Mirabelle would see in him. On the other hand,Schwartzman is perfectly cast.
Jeremy is the antithesis to Ray, both the character and the performance.While Martin is smug and boring, Schwartzman is energetic and alive. Theinitial date between him and Danes is hilarious and their attempts at aromantic night in is one of the funniest scenes of the year. It’s a greatshame then that Jeremy is then sent on a road trip throughout most of thefilm and we then see very little of him. The film instead focuses onMirabelle and Ray, a shallow and uninteresting relationship.
Claire Danes is good as Mirabelle and adds a much needed depth to hercharacter. But her plight does at times feels like it belongs in the daytimeTV movie about the girl who falls in love with the older man. The directiondoes offset this as does the score as both give us this bizarre feeling thatwe are watching something incredibly profound and heartfelt. The film picksup near the end when Schwartzman arrives back on the scene but it onlyserves to remind you how much you would rather have seen a film about hisrelationship with Danes.
Shopgirl isn’t a bad movie. It’s well made and mostly well acted. But instretching out a novella into a full-length movie, it sometimes feels thestrain. What is essentially the basis for a cheap romantic novel is treatedlike it is an earnest and important drama. It’s probably best appreciated asa matinee movie on TV one rainy afternoon. Lost in Translation itisn’t.