Friday, October 28, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

Schwartzman lifts droopy "Shopgirl"

Seattle Times movie critic

Filled with lush, creamy cinematography and chastely photographed sex, "Shopgirl" is an oddly dreary love story, seemingly taking place in slow-motion. That this would come from the ever-quick mind of Steve Martin (who stars and wrote the screenplay, from his novella) makes "Shopgirl" a major disappointment. Except for one key performance, it's instantly forgettable — a chemistry-free romance that's clearly doomed from the start.

Claire Danes plays Mirabelle, who works at the glove counter at a posh department store. Director Anand Tucker seems strangely fascinated by Mirabelle's mundane life, with lingering shots of her little apartment, her belongings, her slightly retro cardigans and print dresses. A wealthy older man, Ray (Martin), becomes quickly smitten with Mirabelle, despite (or because of) the fact that she always seems somewhat depressed. A May/December romance, complete with a lot of expensive takeout food, follows.

Movie review 2 stars

Showtimes and trailer

"Shopgirl," with Steve Martin, Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Sam Bottoms, Frances Conroy. Directed by Anand Tucker, from a screenplay by Martin, based on his novella. 106 minutes. Rated R for some sexual content and brief language. Meridian, Seven Gables.

"Shopgirl," which seems to be aiming for the dreamy quality of the more artful "Lost in Translation," delivers a number of clichés about men, women and romance. We learn that Ray has trouble committing, that Mirabelle just wants to be loved and protected, and that appearances can be deceiving. But it's hard to know exactly what this movie wants to say, and some of its scenes — particularly a shot of Ray giving Mirabelle her antidepressants, photographed in the celestial light of a sacrament — are downright mystifying.

It's not completely a lost cause, though: Jason Schwartzman, as an amiable drifter who's "involved in stenciling," ambles through, saving every scene he's in. He, too, is drawn to the droopy Mirabelle, and she'd be lucky to get him: He's the only person here who seems really alive. When Mirabelle tells him that she's seeing someone else, his face doesn't just fall — it leaps off a cliff into distant waters, splashes, swims and recovers.

In a movie obsessed with photographing Danes as if she were a painting, it's too bad Tucker couldn't have focused more on Schwartzman. Here's a face more than ready for its close-up.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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