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Shopgirl

Year: 2005
Director: Annand Tucker
Writer: Steve Martin
Cast: Claire Danes, Steve Martin, Jason Schwartzman, Bridgette Wilson
The most surprising film I've seen in 2005. I expected a fluffy romantic comedy, but it turned out to be the most bittersweet and heartfelt movie in a long time.

Claire Danes is perfect in the role as Mirabelle, and I'll never look at her the same again. She has such a fascinating dichotomy of plain and beautiful, and her large eyes and wide smile have never made an impression on me until now. It made me realise why she was wrong for Romeo & Juliet. She's not a classic beauty, not the sort of babe you expect to see in a Hollywood fairy tale.

Living alone and feeling fairly alone in Los Angeles, with aspirations of being an artist and spending long, boring days behind the glove counter in Saks Fifth Avenue, Mirabelle seems to just be passing the time.

She meets two men, the immature and scruffy but lively Jeremy (Schwartzman) and the urbane, wealthy and cultured (but much older) Ray (Martin).

Ray's attention and maturity seem to win her over and Jemery goes off on tour with a band in an aside that has little to do with the story and seems to distract form the real point (Mirabelle's dilemma). He re-enters the story transformed into a suave charmer, and you can't help wishing they'd found a better way to show that happening to him.

Fortunately the distractions are few and far between as Mirabelle and Ray's relationship gets wider but frustratingly not deeper. Ray can't commit, and thought that sounds like a cliché, the dialogue and the emotion conveys the heartbreak of it so truthfully (for both characters) you've rarely seen it played out so tenderly.

I also feel like the world will now know about Steve martin what I've known for years. Even though he came of the success of his idiotic SNL period and was stuck doing comedy (albeit more serious) for a very long time, and the fact that he spends half his time now doing fluffy family comedies, he's a great dramatic actor. I'm convinced he'd make one of the scariest screen villains. Something about his goofy grin could hide a true madman.

And like is was in another classic Steve Martin story - he (as the writer) and director Tucker have made Los Angeles itself a character, showing us some of the moods and shifts in the city we rarely see the true side of in the movies.

It's a melancholy, immersive and beautiful masterpiece, and you'll rarely feel more for any characters again.

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