“I’d like a “Shopgirl” DVD please. Wrap it up, ready to be mailed.
And when that’s done, write your home address on it.”

Refined Sugar Daddy

“Mirabelle Buttersfield (Claire Danes) moved from Vermont, hoping to begin her life. And now she is stranded in the vast openness of L.A.” a narrating voice informs.

“She keeps working to make connections, but the pile of near-misses is staring to overwhelm her. What Mirabelle needs is an omniscient voice to illuminate and spotlight her. And to inform everyone that this one has value. This one, standing behind the counter in the glove compartment. And then to find her counterpart and bring him to her.”

“Shopgirl,” adapted from Steve Martin’s novella, has parts when it seems like a modern fairy tale. It’s just that the potential prince charmings is either far from charming (Jason Schwartzman) or far older than her (Steve Martin). While a decent and pretty girl like Mirabelle could do better, the movie sorta convinced me of her initial attraction to these two unlikely suitors. As much as repulsive and unromantic Jeremy (Schwartzman) is, he’s pretty much a stud when Mirabelle compares him to unbearable loneliness. And when gray-haired Ray Porter (Martin) takes a liking to her, she’s seduced by his refined mystique.

The set-up is pretty okay, but the movie develops in a gracefully boring manner. Once Porter’s air of mystery is ventilated, he’s pretty much an old fart. As I try to be not judgmental, I could not get rid of the “ick” factor of the old man/young woman pairing. Ray Porter is not a sweet father figure but he is a sugar daddy, no matter how decent it is portrayed. Sure, Mirabelle might sincerely love him, but I’m sure his financial generosity contributed to that. There is something sleazy about the story because it fits the mold of an old man’s fantasy.

The bright spot in the movie is Claire Danes. I remember when she was such a breakthrough when she starred in the cult drama “My So-Called Life.” Though she has faded somewhat, her luminous and vulnerable performance cannot be dimmed here. And the other thing I liked about the movie is its ending, which is bittersweet and comforting at the same time. I really wanted to like “Shopgirl” as a whole. Steve Martin, along with director Anand Tucker, brings emotional intelligence and a sense of reality to the movie. Something just didn’t click. Maybe it’s a matter of not relating to some of the characters. Ask me decades from now and I’m sure my mature reaction would be different.

Grade: C+

Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman, Steve Martin, Bridgette Wilson, Sam Bottoms, Frances Conroy, Rebecca Pidgeon, and Joshua Snyder
Screenplay by
Steve Martin
Based on the novella by
Steve Martin
Directed by
Anand Tucker
Rated R for some sexual content and brief language