Sunday, November 06, 2005

A relationship that doesn't quite fit

I'm not much into romantic-type comedy/dramas. There are a few exceptions. "Groundhog Day" comes to mind. But film critic Roger Ebert's review of "Shopgirl" was so positive (see the link above) that I put it on my screening list.

When I saw University of Tennessee film studies professor Chuck Maland and his wife, Nancy, going to see the film at Downtown West on Friday night, that convinced me. What the heck. I caught a matinee.

The tagline for this movie is "Not all relationships fit like a glove." That turns out to be an understatement.

The film focuses on Mirabelle (Claire Danes), a depressed young woman who can't seem to make a connection with the opposite sex. She stares at the loving couples who pass by her counter at Saks Fifth Avenue wishing she had such romance in her own life.

But it just hasn't happened. She talks to her cat. She draws. She pops pills to stay happy.

One night at the laundry mat she meets Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman). He's goofy. Isn't too experienced on the nuances of dating. He's throwing things from the front seat of the car when he picks her up. They try to hook up, but it just doesn't work. (The scene is funny, but also a bit sad.)

Then up to her counter walks Ray Porter (Steve Martin). He dresses well. Yeah, he's quite a bit older. But he looks rich.

He sends her a pair of black gloves she recommends he buy. He attaches a note, asking for a dinner date. She accepts.

What follows is an engaging story about the difficulty of relationships --- and what happens when you try to put too many demands on them.

Mirabelle eventually falls in love with Ray. It's obvious he cares for her, too. But he won't commit. He won't let her see that final part of himself, the part he keeps hidden from her. From anyone.

Meanwhile Jeremy hits the road with a rock singer. He starts to find himself. He cleans up his act. He listens to audiobooks on dating.

Mirabelle has to choose between them. As she says at one point, "Do I hurt now or do I hurt later?" She makes a choice.

I'll leave it to you to decide whether she makes the right one. All I can say is I left the theater feeling both satisfied and depressed.

The film is based on a novella by Martin, which he adapted into a screenplay. "Shopgirl" is aptly directed by Anand Tucker and features a nice pace, fairly developed characters and some good cinematography.

Martin's story is an interesting commentary on the ocean of feelings that often exists between men and women. The film's untidy ending feels a lot like real life.

This is a perfect date movie. Put it on your list and see it with your significant other on your next night at the movies. Here's hoping your relationship was forged easier than this one.

"Shopgirl" is rated R for brief language and adult situations. It is playing at Regal CinemaArt Downtown West.

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