I knew the movie was something special from the opening credits. It shows LA at night, glittery like any large city, with clogged arteries like only LA. I’ve never even been to LA and I recognized the freeways at once…even at night. The aerial photography is accompanied by a sweeping dramatic theme. Without change of meter or perspective, the “aerial” shot becomes neat rows of lipsticks, eyeshadows, and various other makeup. Beautiful photography, sweeping music, symbolism before a single word is uttered: I’m hooked. Finally, the scene settles on the Shopgirl.
I was quickly wrapped in a life I recognized as similar to my life ten years ago (see #100). Not completely devoid, but not great either: moving someplace new didn’t solve anything.
Jason Schwartzman (Jeremy) has grown up beautifully from the fantastic Rushmore. Every moment he is on screen is perfect. He is charmingly idiotic and makes me laugh, but not at him, even when he’s manically zipping and unzipping his sweatshirt like a 12-year-old.
Mirabelle (Claire Danes) feels rescued from Jeremy by the smooth, wealthy Ray Porter (Steve Martin). The most interesting moment is with Ray and Mirabelle after they’ve become intimately involved. They have a very brief conversation about the level of time and level of commitment they have. Well, really, it’s a soliloquy by Ray but it ends with Mirabelle vigorously agreeing. Then, she tells her friends and he tells his shrink what the content of the conversation was. It’s like watching the opening sequence in Grease, or Ross and Rachel describing their first date. How can two people have such opposing stories about the same event?? Most interesting about the Shopgirl point-counterpoint is how both parties started with a semblance of the truth, then convinced themselves of the lies they wanted to believe. Thus began their courtship with neither party willing to confront the truth.
The movie also contains some hilarious vignettes, sort of comic relief for a heavy piece. Only Jeremy could be so adorably go-with-the-flow (especially when he doesn’t understand what’s happening).
At one moment, and I’ll try not to give away the plot here, Ray is talking to Mirabelle outside the gallery and he tells her something. Her reaction is one I’ve actually felt: happiness and true pain at the same time.
Some may say the theme music and the timbre of the movie is too serious, but I disagree. Living those moments is the most serious thing a person does to grow. Lots of movies can make death and explosions dramatic; this one succeeds in making real life as imortant as it is.