On the heels of his terrifically inventive and entertaining “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell delves into sexual dysfunctionality and experimentation among a tiny cross section of Manhattanites in “Shortbus.”
Laura's Review: DNS
Robin's Review: C
www.dictionary.com defines bland as: “not irritating or stimulating; having little or no distinctive flavor.” This definition applies to “Shopgirl.” Transplanted Euro director Anand Tucker (“Hilary and Jackie”) takes Steve Martin’s adapted screenplay (from his novella) and tells the story of three lonely people. This romantic triangle has Mirabelle, a budding artist who plies her work, alone, by night and waits on the occasional customer at her isolate counter by day, is the target of affection for oddball Jeremy. He has little by way of ambition and spends his days in a go-nowhere job selling Holydog amplifiers. His real passion is to develop a unique font for his hobby, graphics. Their romance ends before it has a chance to begin. Ray Porter buys a pair of expensive gloves from Mirabelle then has them delivered to her doorstep with an invitation to dinner. She accepts and it looks like this might just be the fairytale relationship she has dreamed of. For Ray, though, it is a temporary interlude to occupy his time and bed. When he confesses to Mirabelle that he slept with someone else and “thought that it would be all right,” she is crushed and turns to despair and to her art. Things turn out okay when newly cleaned up Jeremy returns and Mirabelle gets the love she deserves. My problem with “Shopgirl” is that none of the three principles even remotely grabbed my interest. The blandness that I brought up earlier permeates these characters that fail to evince even a modicum of empathy from me. I suppose that the lives of three obviously lonely people, especially in a romantic context, might appeal to some but not to me. Mirabelle, who, we find out quite a ways into the film, suffers from depression, came to LA to find her artistic fortune. She left her Vermont home where her father (Sam Bottoms), a Vietnam veteran, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and her mother (Frances Conroy) prays for things to be better. The 20-something wannabe artist is a romantic at heart and expects to find her Prince Charming somewhere in her new California hometown. She isn’t prepared for the loneliness in a city of such hustle and bustle as Los Angeles. In fairytale manner she meets a frog that will become here prince and a prince who turns out to be a frog. Their story, though, does not rise above the shallowness of its characters. The actors, even the author, Steve Martin, cannot breathe believable life into their lonely characters. It’s sad testament that Sam Bottoms, in what is only a cameo role as Mirabelle’s troubled dad, is more fleshed out than the leads. Production is true Hollywood. Mirabelle, a struggling clerk who can only afford to pay about $43/month on her huge college loan, has a wardrobe that is to die for. Production notes state that the actress undergoes some 96 costume changes and this fact detracts from any sense of reality. Set design of Mirabelle and Jeremy’s working class apartment buildings is handsomely handled by William Arnold looking suitably tacky. Roy Porter’s lap of luxury digs, in LA and Seattle, also fit the bill. Veteran lenser Peter Suschitzky does an expert job in giving a fairytale look to the proceeds. One should care about the characters seen in a film, especially in a romance. Helmer Tucker and scribe Martin fail to do this and the result is something that is “not irritating or stimulating; having little or no distinctive flavor.” “Shopgirl” may appeal to the femme viewer but it is wasted on me.