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Closing the shop?
I'm back! After a two month hiatus, I finally managed to write an issue of my wonderful column. For the next month, you'll get two issues per week. One issue on Monday and the other on Thursday. I've been keeping myself busy writing for Screenwriters Monthly and working full-time. I thought the summer was a mixed bag in terms of releases. Personally, I was expecting more. This summer lacked a few intelligent films. Where was our Road to Perdition? Today we have the script review for Steve Martin's Shopgirl. While Miss Jones didn't like it, I would like to point out that I loved it. I could just imagine Steve, Claire Danes and Jimmy Fallon playing those characters perfectly. For Thursday, we are going to Wicker Park...
Shopgirl Script Review
Honestly, Shopgirl is the most boring piece of writing I have read to date. Well, it's not that boring, but the thing is quite wearisome. As a screenplay written by Steve Martin, I expected gutbusting laughter embedded in a somewhat decent storyline. Instead, all I got were a few sporadic chuckles at characters that were just barely on the verge of interesting. And, the storyline is so slow and unmonumental that I had to injest it in small pieces over the space of a week, if not longer. I literally had to force myself to read it each time, and once it was over, I felt utterly unfulfilled, cheated, unmoved, and unenlightened. The only sympathy I had for the main character, Mirabelle, was for how stupid she is. Actually, I can't say that I liked any of the characters. My sympathy for the script, however, runs deep.
Shopgirl is based on a book of the same name written by Martin. Reviews of the book, in general, are favorable. This is what one reader's post on Amazon.com said about the book, 'It is about intrinsic needs to help, and be helped, and about healthy versus unhealthy relationships.' Hmmm. I honestly don't know about the book since I didn't read it, but the screenplay relays that idea only sparingly. I can see how that lesson is embedded within the story, but in my opinion, Martin's attempt to bring it to the surface fails one notch above miserably.
Titled Shopgirl, one might reasonably think that the story is about a girl and a shop, i.e. how the shop effects her or how she effects the shop....Wrong! As far as I can tell, the title holds no major significance other than cluing us into Mirabelle's working at Neiman Marcus as a cashier. Her working there is in no way extremely pivotal to this movie, or to our understanding of the story. The script begins with in depth detail of Neiman Marcus floor by floor, on to our finally meeting the protagonist, Mirabelle, behind the glove counter she works at. I assumed that Mirabelle, the quiet girl next door type, would turn into a shoplifter or something counter to her doormat like image. I assumed that whatever exciting thing she would come to do would be tied to Neiman Marcus somehow, given that the screenwriter took/takes so much time in detailing her surroundings, right? Wrong again.
In a nutshell Shopgirl is a story of how two sex buddies unintentionally fall in love with each other. Due primarily to the fact that one is a poor, lonely, depressed woman of 27 and the other is a rich, lonely man a few years past a half century, the dynamics of Mirabelle Buttersfield and Ray Porter's relationship are questioned in two ways. Do the two really love each other, or are there subtle nuances under the surface driving their affection? The real purpose of the script, I've assumed, is to answer those questions. That description in itself sounds quite intriguing, and in the beginning, the script actually is. I had a lot of promise for the story. That promise never came to fruition. The way that Martin drags the two through uninteresting detail, or reinforces the same character qualities becomes monotonous, but I'll get more in depth with that later. Floating in the background are two far more interesting characters, Jeremy and Lisa. Jeremy is Mirabelle's initial romantic interest. He's basically a low life completely ignorant of his low lifeness, but Mirabelle deals with him. Lisa is Mirabelle's sythethically beautiful coworker and a golddigger extraordinaire. Jeremy and Lisa are both so strange that a special film delving into how they developed the way they did and/or what makes people like them tick might not be such a bad idea.
Before I go any further, I'll give a spoiler warning. In order for me to say what I really want, I'll have to unleash a few facts that may clue a smart reader in to the direction of the upcoming movie. So, stop now if you want to preserve some mystery. Go in if you want to know why you want more of my two cents.
The main reason this script falls short is also tied into why I don't care too much for Mirabelle's character. To begin, I must say that Mirabelle's status as a poor ex-college student was stated so much that I wondered if the cows were ever coming home. Her being poor is only necessary so that we can understand her infatuation with Ray Porter, a rich casanova. Even then, I can't totally accept her making $6.25 cents an hour at Neiman Marcus when she has an MA in some form of art from CalArt. I do know that the economy is tough, but being somewhat educated, I would think that she knows about temp agencies that would pay at least $10 bucks an hour for her to be an Admin. And, even if she were getting paid $10 bucks an hour, she still wouldn't be able to live the type lifestyle that she was living without some sort of subsistence income. Hammering home her endless financial struggles was completely overrated, and a tad bit unrealistic.
On another note, I can understand Mirabelle being lonely and her seriously combatting depression being a real reason for her latching on to any sick bastard who shows her a little attention. Jeremy is about the dumbest man on the face of the earth when it comes to treating someone with respect. His first date with Mirabelle entails them sitting down on a bench across the street from a movie theater because he doesn't have the cash to actually buy a ticket. Mind you, he seriously thinks of this as a date. What a nut, right? That's really not even the half of it, although i did come away admiring Jeremy for his piercing honesty. He doesn't have much of an incentive to change, though, because Mirabelle eventually gives up the goods. It was at this point when I began to lose respect for her, and things never picked back up for her. She ditches Jeremy for the rich older guy, which in itself, is nothing to be alarmed over. An older person can be genuinely interested in getting to know a younger person, right? One would not come away thinking that if you saw this movie. In this instance the audience is clued in right off the bat that Ray's interest in Mirabelle is purely sexual, as this is supposed to be a fairly common notion since all older men who date younger women are solely motivated by sex??? But, this is Steve Martin's story, so I accepted that idea for the sake of following the story. I even accepted Mirabelle's incredible ignorance of her place in Ray Porter's eyes as nothing more than a glorified prostitute. Mirabelle believes that Ray Porter loves her, and so does the audience. Even though Ray reminds Mirabelle and the audience that their arrangement is purely sexual, I believed this to be a Ray Porter in denial of his true feelings. All of his actions lead one to believe that. But when all is said and done, and we think they're on a perfect path to breaking down this common notion of older men dating younger women strictly for sex, the audience is thrown a curve ball right at the very end. Mirabelle and Ray Porter's mutual feelings about their relationship and their decision to part is in no way substantiated in this script. In fact, it seems that the audience is given every reason to believe that the two are actually in love. Wrong.
Mirabelle finally sees the light, and has the mind to start using her MA from CalArt, but that seems to be the only way in which she changes. She goes back to dating a reconstructed Jeremy whose change is so drastic and unbelievable that I'm wondering what kind of idiots Martin thinks he'll have in his audience to actually believe Jeremy's story. And Ray Porter... I'm was left wondering if Ray Porter's character had actually changed or learned anything from his relationship with Mirabelle. I say that because the next person we see him dating is still some young sex kitten, although now closer to his age.
I was angry at this script; angry because I thought it would go in every direction except the one in which it went. The only person who seemed to change in the script was Jeremy, and you've read what I thought about his change. I would liked to have known what issues Ray Porter were dealing with that made him feel like he could only find romance or love in someone younger than him. I would liked to have known why Mirabelle was working at Neiman Marcus in the first damn place. And, I really want to know what I was supposed to get out of this script?
(Review by 'the one and only' Miss Jones.)
That's all folks...
Jean-François Allaire (aka DeadPool)
Questions, comments, praise etc. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean-François Allaire is TNMC's first columnist. At only 24 years old he has become a respected entertainment journalist, with his columns appearing in Corona's Coming Attractions and Scr(i)pt magazine. He also writes a monthly column in Screenwriters Monthly entitled 'The Last Word.' Hailing from Montreal this young writer is determined to dig up all the details on the movies before they hit your local theater. If you're part of a movie production then you really need to be talking to him.