Mirabelle’s life is about as humdrum as the dress gloves she sells behind the counter at Saks Fifth Avenue are anachronistic. Beautifully portrayed by Claire Danes, Mirabelle wanders through her existence, not quite certain whether she even deserves to find happiness. Of course, she does, and it comes in the form of a rich entrepreneur (Steve Martin), although his plans for the future aren’t as grandiose as hers.
Based on Martin’s popular novella of the same name, Shopgirl is a bittersweet but slightly off-kilter romance, with the author/screenwriter treading over the same charming-older-man ground that Bill Murray plied in Lost in Translation. Jason Schwartzman provides the off-kilter dimension, playing a more age-appropriate but appallingly inept suitor. Lacking a condom at a critical moment, Schwartzman’s Jeremy suggests substituting a Jiffy sandwich bag, before scurrying to get the real thing from Mirabelle’s next-door neighbor.
All three performances are truly inspired, with Danes’ turn as the introspective L.A. outsider particularly memorable. She says more with her expressions than with all of her lines of dialogue combined. Together with a pitch-perfect score by Barrington Pheloung, Shopgirl has a timeless, classical quality about it—a Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the 21st century. If there’s any problem with the film, it’s an unnecessary and distracting narration by Martin.
The movie was shot with an emphasis on colors—blues and grays signaling Mirabelle’s early doldrums, bright primary colors and sun-drenched exteriors as she spreads her wings—and they’re all pleasingly showcased in this 2.35:1 anamorphic presentation. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is subtle but always clear as it delivers even the most quiet lines of dialogue.
Supplements are thin but good. A fairly standard making-of runs 21 minutes and covers the film’s genesis and the adaptation of the novella. Martin is present but adds little beyond his raves about his costars. Far superior is a commentary track by director Anand Tucker, who gets into the inner workings of the characters and calls Shopgirl one of the best scripts he’s read. There are also two deleted scenes, one of which could easily have made it into the finished film.
You’ll find that you don’t so much watch this movie as let it wash over you. The music and performances will leave an impression as surely as waves crashing on a beach. It’s to be enjoyed like a glass of wine, preferably one of those fancy maroon ones.