A review of “Shopgirl” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: R for language and nudity

Run Time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

 

 

Claire Danes gives an ethereal performance as the wistful shopgirl of Steve Martin’s dreams, based on his stirring novella of the same name.

Mirabelle (Danes) is a simple Vermont transplant who lives a lonely life surrounded by luxury, the luxury of diaphanous silk gloves in the fine accessories department of Saks Fifth Avenue. 

After dark Mirabelle returns to her solitary apartment and creates artsy charcoal drawings while barely scraping by and hoping against hope for Prince Charming to appear.

A couple of dates with a garrulous musician who picks her up at the Laundromat (Jason Schwartzman as Jeremy) yield an interesting sexual escapade and little more. Jeremy is no prince and not very charming at that.

Mirabelle’s afterglow arrives in the form of a handsome stranger (Martin as Ray Porter) who enters her retail domain and purchases a pair of black gloves. The same gloves that shortly thereafter land on her doorstep along with a mysterious dinner invitation. The two begin to date and Ray’s sophisticated influence subtly transforms Mirabelle from geek to chic. 

But Mirabelle is looking for love and Ray can’t or won’t commit. On the other side of the country Jeremy is tripping the roads fantastic with a rock and roll band and spending his down-time educating himself on the finer arts of pleasing a woman. When he returns to display his newfound knowledge Mirabelle’s world is turned upside down.

“Shopgirl” is an oasis of old-fashioned charm in a modern world. A number of pressing issues are never fully realized – of isolation, loyalty and the intricacies of the May-December romance – but their nuances offer a subtle joy. The building blocks of romance are inherently entertaining but also heartbreaking, their mixed signals intimating bittersweet lessons.

Martin is inscrutably sexy and rather sad, his urbane veneer masking a reticent soul. Danes plays off of him with perfectly poignant vulnerability.

Stylish, quirky and affecting.