It was an eventful weekend, in that it was full of events. But one day at a time, please.
On Friday evening, the itinerary called for a movie and Thai food with C-girl (in a restaurant featuring its own Thai Elvis. So L.A.). The movie? Shopgirl. The verdict? I liked it walking out of the theater and grew to love it on further reflection. That said, I would recommend it to very few people. I'll admit, it is slow, sad and quiet and the ham-handed narration was awful and awkward overkill. In his role, Steve Martin was creepy-adjacent, drained of emotion and motion. And the Hollywood ending is lame. And the plot is as thin as Claire Dane's waist, but...BUT.
I expected to dislike the film. I hated the novella it was based on and I have a serious repulsion when it comes to Claire "Stare" Danes, but something about the trailer piqued my curiosity. Something about the muted mood and saturated color scheme beckoned. I felt compelled to see it. And not just "sometime." I had to see it opening weekend.
So why the unexpected admiration and enjoyment? I loved Shopgirl, because it's true. Especially true for 20- and 30-something single women in L.A. I know, every big city has its dating challenges, but the veneer-eal disease (I stole that pun) running rampant in this city throws the pitfalls into sharp relief.
So, first the caveats. Anyone who has NOT been involuntarily unattached for an interminable length of time in a big city will be bored by this film. Anyone who hasn't had to bite their tongue, holding back a profession of affection for fear of making a significant other bolt, will be annoyed by this film. Anyone who hasn't had to spell-check their own sanity when surrounding by crazy-makingly thoughtless love interests will not dig this film on any level. Anyone who hasn't wondered if the sexual revolution actually screwed over the women it was trying to liberate will think this movie is pointless.
But Steve baby nailed it. The psychology and sociology of the disjointed dating dance of intimacy is dead-on. I didn't feel that about his book, but the pathos is there on the big-screen--the mixed messages, the cruelty clumsily justified by claimed ignorance, the solitude that can be sweet or lonely--but remains solitude nonetheless.
And while I haven't been privy to the press junket sound bites, it's clear it's no accident that the lead female in the film works where she does. The girls trapped behind the Windexed-glass of the retail store counters they man are just as much commodities as the goods they are shilling. Desirable until taken home and worn awhile. Returnable without explanation. A perfect metaphor. Well-done, Mr. Martin. Well-done.
And Claire, after all the years I've mocked your Andrew McCarthy school of bug-eyed expression of emotion, I've got to give props. The play of emotions on your face, from delight to despair to ennui were heartbreaking . And Jason Schwartzman, you kept the movie afloat with aplomb. A fine comedian, you be. And to the cinematographer, wonderful job shooting L.A. and its hazy gold-flecked afternoons and teal-soaked nights. And to the location scout, kudos on showcasing different slices of Lalaland, especially Mirabelle's wrought-ironed window apartment building. And to the director and editor, may I say my favorite shot in the whole movie (while there were many more gorgeous in color and composition) was the long hold on Mirabelle's mom at the dinner table while her daughter was on the phone. Talk about a punch to the gut in a seemingly throwaway shot. Kudos to all. And don't let the haters get to you, even though they will (understandably) be the majority of filmgoers (I mean, even MD'A gave it a D+ for pete's sake). Be that as it may, you still rule in your subdued way. Just like Mirabelle, it takes awhile to truly savor your signficance.