SHOPGIRL

2 Stars - Shallow

It is almost painful to watch the empty lives of people who have no spiritual life.  Rather than living lives that are full of purpose and hope motivated by their faith to reach out with love to others, the characters depicted in this film are empty and bored.  Rather than feasting on life they seem content to gather the crumbs. Such is the tale written by Steve Martin and directed by Anand Tucker.

The title role is filled by a young woman whose depressive genetics and childhood in Delaware has followed her to Los Angeles.  Wanting to find joy and love, Mirabelle (Claire Danes) has graduated from college with a massive student debt only to find herself hired as a shopgirl selling gloves at Sacks.  There, bored by this meaningless and meager responsibility, Mirabelle is wilting.

Using voice-over commentary that does not work well, Steve Martin says the obvious: that she needs some transcendent help.  But the help offered is not a more fulfilling, hope-filled life, but seduction by two very different men, each of whom are woefully inadequate.

The younger man is a destitute stencil artist who lives as empty a life as Mirabelle's but he seems to be powerless to change.  Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman) befriends Mirabelle at a laundromat and is painfully unable to reach her.  But when Mirabelle listens to a talk radio talk show host who says she "needs to be held," Mirabelle and Jeremy become sexually intimate.  The unbelievably shallow basis on which they connect is not enough to reach beneath the veneer of their souls.

It is then that the other option for love enters her life, Ray Porter (Steve Martin). Ray is as old as Mirabelle's father, but wealthy, worldly and well-mannered.  Having made his fortune in another form of symbolic language from Jeremy's stencils, Ray is a symbolic logistician and computer genius.  Having his own private plane, two houses and the wealth to woo Mirabelle into his arms, Ray is clear that he only wants her sexually.  At least he thinks he is clear.  It is this self-delusion that not only belittles his own soul but abuses the soul of Mirabelle.

Though we won't tell how this tale continues and the modest moral that it attempts, the sadness is that this film is described by many as a "feel-good, realistic film."  If this is all life can be, then why does the human spirit long for so much more?  This film's R-rating is not just because of its sexual scenes but also because it has little of value to offer viewers.

 

Discussion:

  1. Do you find Mirabelle's acceptance of the emptiness of her life surprising?  Would you want to live her life either before or after she connects with these men?
  2. Why do you think Mirabelle took antidepressants? Was it the genetic heritage from her mother and father, was it her situation in life, or do you think it was due to something else?
  3. Imagine that Lisa Cramer (Bridgette Wilson) was a loving person who cared about Mirabelle.  What a difference would that have made in Mirabelle's life in LA?
  4. Similar in style to Bill Murray's "Lost in Translation," what do you believe this film reflects of Steve Martin's joy in life or lack thereof?  Is this a work of art or is it a reflection of society?  Or is it a cry for help?
Posted on June 1, 2011 and filed under 2 STARS, SHALLOW.