review for Shopgirl on AllMovie

Shopgirl (2005)
by Perry Seibert review

Claire Danes gives an interesting performance in Shopgirl. Her character is looking for happiness and fulfillment, but she suffers from depression and takes medication that flattens out her moods. Her Mirabelle Buttersfield has a pretty good clue as to what she wants out of life, she is simply having trouble finding it. Ray Porter, the older man who romances her, sees her as a delicate, elegant, fragile creature. Those adjectives are all accurate descriptions of her, but they certainly do not describe her completely. Steve Martin imbues Ray with an inherent coldness that never thaws, even as he gets himself more involved with her than he ever intended to. One of the best aspects of the film is the cinematography by regular David Cronenberg DP Peter Suschitzky. The stylish look of the film also has a fragile beauty that encourages the audience to see Mirabelle exactly as Ray does, something that makes her performance all the more interesting. The audience begins to see more in her than Ray does. The love triangle involving the two of them and Jason Schwartzman's twentysomething Jeremy plays out with a simple straightforwardness that suffers mostly because one of these three characters does not grow up -- anyone should figure out early on who will end up with whom. The film moves at a deliberate pace that allows the viewer to understand and appreciate Mirabelle's many wonderful qualities, but neither of the men seem particularly worthy of her even if one does become an obviously better choice. As a romance, Shopgirl comes up short, but as a portrait of a young woman at an early crossroads in her life, the film offers a mix of emotional truth and nonjudgmental observation that makes it a worthy character study.