Cover of "Shopgirl"

Cover of Shopgirl

I’ve never read Steve Martin‘s novella Shopgirl, on which this 2008 film is based, but I mostly admire his script for the film—more than I do his wan acting.

Directed by Anand Tucker, Shopgirl stars Claire Danes as an L.A. sales clerk for Sak’s.  Lonely and sans a beau, she takes up with a near loser (Jason Schwartzman) whom she can’t possibly love.  By and by he changes for the better, but by then the Danes character, Mirabelle, has drifted into the arms of a friendly, fifty-something swell (Martin).  The swell is not quite the man for her, though, albeit Mirabelle decisively wants him.  But will she, can she, fall for Schwartzman too?

Martin’s little opus surveys the pleasure and heartache of love without mutual commitment, romance which is sexual but of limited potency.  Note how falling in love spurs Mirabelle to give up antidepressants, only to eventually find she still needs them irrespective of whether she has a beau or not. . .  A histrionic angel, Danes creates a tender Mirabelle, and Tucker makes sure she has presence.  There are shortcomings in the film, such as Martin’s unnecessary voiceover and the fact that the last sentence he speaks will not do.  But, too, it is feelingful and pleasantly Chekhovian.  And, yes, not very comedic but it doesn’t have to be.