Thursday, November 03, 2005


I can finally come clean: back when she was in My So-Called Life, it was just wrong for me to admit to an interest in Claire Danes, given that she was, in both real life and in acting life, in her mid teens. But, dammit, she had an edge, even then, so watching the programme was a guilty pleasure. I haven't seen many of her more recent works, although I did see Igby Goes Down and, of course, Romeo and Juliet.

Of the younger set of actresses, she'd be one of my favourites, along with the always great Samantha Morton, so it was pretty much a given that when she teamed up with Steve Martin (as Ray) for his Shopgirl, I'd go along. The movie turned out to be pretty lame, to be honest. One of the central storylines is about their (so-called) relationship, but it is never explained to us what he sees in her or why, of all the young women in town, he selected her for his attention. All we get to see is that he approaches her at the glove counter of Saks, buys some gloves and (thanks to his position as a computer mogul) finds her address and sends them to her. Just a little bit creepy, yet she's into it - when he suggests a posh dinner, she says yes without hesitation. Maybe it was the care he took in saying he had no intentions beyond dinner - liar! She ends up falling for him anyway. Maybe it was supposed to be the result of poor self esteem or depression on her part - but, old as he is, he's still a multi-millionaire.

Of course, when you compare Ray with the other "man" in her life, the completely inept Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), then Ray, who at least has a clue, looks good. But why are her choices so stark? I never got the motivation of either of them, and it didn't help that Ray was so emotionally detached. Sure, I can understand wanting to be with Claire Danes, or Mirabelle - who has some interesting qualities, in that she makes sellable art in her spare time, drives a deeply unfashionable vehicle and reads serious novels - but he never ever shows any kind of excitement at the opportunity. Hell, I'd think I'd died and gone to heaven, and it would show in everything I did. At the very end, there is a small moment of insight - that a man of his age couldn't keep up with someone so young, but shit, he didn't even give it a proper shot and she still went with him for a while.

So, it was weird, seeing Martin acting like an emotional retard, no humour, nothing - despite the fact that he wrote the thing. The best line went to Mirabelle: he is making some sort of plan for her next birthday, since he failed to do much about this one. She says "By then, you'll be dead."

As for young Jeremy, well he's just a very odd young man: he latches on to Mirabelle in a laundromat, and within a short space of time, she's asking him "Are you the kind of person that takes time to get to know, and then once to get to know them... they're fabulous?" At least he had the wit to say yes. But, oooh, they have a cringeworthy friendship - he really doesn't have much of a clue about getting along with people, let alone dating. She's kind to him however, even if a little creeped out, and suggests that he needs to do something to develop a personal style. Of course, he has a cool job, he designs logos for amps used by musos; allowing for him to take a life-changing trip with a band as their roadie. When he returns, he's a new man.

But the story is really about Mirabelle, as you'd expect from the title - her impact on these two men and her finding her own path through life, away from being a bored glove seller to finding something a bit more meaningful. Despite the flimsiness of the story, and the problems I've mentioned with the two leading men, Claire Danes as Mirabelle was just great, the sort of girl I once hoped to meet - a curious mixture of confidence, fragility, warmth, humour, melancholia, tenderness. Someone on IMDB says she plays the role with "breath-taking accuracy" - I know exactly what was meant.


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