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Directed by Anand Tucker.
Written by Steve Martin.  Based on the novella by Steve Martin.
Starring Steve Martin, Claire Danes, and Jason Schwartzman.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  11/10/05


Am I a victim of the overhype machine?

Coming into the new Steve Martin flick "Shopgirl", I was all fired up, thinking that this was going to be a shot to get Martin an Oscar nomination, and for Claire Danes to reassert her talent, and for Jason Schwartzman to...well, maybe NOT play the same slightly wacko young oddball he plays in all of his other films.

"Houston...we have a problem."

My buddy Yac, his roommate Kevin and I went to see "Shopgirl" this week and I must say, all three of us left with that sinking feeling.  Based on the novella of the same name written by Martin, the longtime comic plays Ray Porter, a software tycoon that splits time between his homes in L.A. and Seattle while conducting his business.  One day, he meets Saks Fifth Avenue accessories employee Mirabelle Buttersfield (Danes) and the two launch an improbable relationship that is, well...normal.  Meanwhile, prior to all of this happening, Mirabelle meets a roadie/artist named Jeremy (Schwartzman) that is so desperate for attention (or maybe just's hard to tell early on) that he falls over himself trying to go out with Mirabelle, which she relents to after their chance meeting at a laundromat.  This complicates the Ray/Mirabelle pairing a bit later, and then it doesn't, as Jeremy goes on a long road tour with a band where he figures out...well, you'll see.

I'm having a hard time describing the plot mostly because I don't think there really is one, which is fine...but that forces us to fall in with the three main characters, which is nearly impossible, since all three of them are strikingly boring.  Jeremy, the Schwartzman character, is the only reason you stay hooked early on, as he provides enough random laughs to keep you intrigued until the inevitable Ray/Mirabelle pairing gets rolling.  But I was stunned at how flat-out bored I was watching "Shopgirl"; truly, it felt like being dragged through a pit of hot tar.

But why is this?  Maybe it's that I had a hard time picking up any motivation behind why Ray picked out this particular girl to wine & dine and take into his home.  Maybe it's the Mirabelle character; as she seems to have no friends (save for a few folks at Saks, who seem to talk to her only because she shows up at the same eatery every day) and nothing really to say even when she is sitting with Ray, our Shopgirl is just so boring!  After we meet him and he is put aside for Ray, the Jeremy character is reduced to afterthought for the majority of the film...which makes things even rougher, because Jeremy is the only reason we laugh during the film's run.

Martin is so subdued here that I honestly think it would have been better to use another actor to play his character.  As it is, you just expect at some point for Martin to give us just a shred of the physical comedy and mannerisms that have defined his career, but he's playing a rich guy stiff...was Michael Douglas not available?  So, Martin's character is not funny and our heroine is so boring that she almost put me to sleep...what's left?  There are no sideplots in "Shopgirl"; there are no supporting characters.  The next highest-billed performer after the big three, Bridge Wilson-Sampras, has about four lines over her three scenes.  She, and the other cast members, are mostly an afterthought.

And as we have to lean on our main troika to make this thing work, "Shopgirl" is a major disappointment.  Again, the film starts off very well and until Mirabelle becomes entrenched in her romance with Ray, the film shows promise...but boy, does that disappear quickly!  Wait for the DVD!

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09