Meet Mirabelle. She's recently transplanted from Vermont to Los Angeles. By day she sells formal gloves at Saks Fifth Avenue. By night she creates charcoal sketches and dreams of being seen—of mattering to someone—or so the narrator of this melancholy fairytale tells us. A moody soundtrack accentuates Mirabelle's loneliness and isolation, and removed images of L.A.'s glitter make even her own environment seem like it's a million miles away.
This, perhaps, isn't the set-up for a romance one would expect from the pen of "wild and crazy guy" Steve Martin. But indeed, Martin adapted the screenplay for Shopgirl from his own best-selling novella of the same name. And while the book is a well-crafted exploration of the psychology behind complicated relationships, the movie turns out to be more of a mood piece that, aside from a few short pieces of narration, leaves the audience to largely draw its own conclusions as to what motivates the main players.
First on the scene is Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), a poorly groomed oddball whom Mirabelle meets at the Laundromat. She's lonely enough that she gives him her number, and their date is predictably disastrous in a way that's funny only because it's happening to someone else. But it does result in one of the best bits of dialogue in the movie:
Mirabelle: "Are you the kind of person that takes time to get to know, and then once to get to know them … they're fabulous?"
Jeremy: "Yes, absolutely." <pause> "What?"
It's not long before Ray Porter (Steve Martin) enters from stage left. A handsome 60-ish businessman, he buys a pair of gloves from Mirabelle and has them sent to her apartment with an invitation to dinner. She accepts and is, also predictably, smitten by his ...1
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