Posted at 8:38 AM on March 20, 2006
by Euan Kerr
I hit cinematic lows and highs on Saturday and Sunday, both at the hands of movies where the star wrote both the story and the screenplay.
Saturday found me slipping in at the last moment to see "Shopgirl" Steve Martin's longtime labor of love. We saw it at a discount theater, and even spending just $2 on this movie seemed a bit of a rip-off.
Clare Danes puts in a solid doe-eyed performance as Mirabelle the Saks 5th Avenue gloveseller who is blundering around looking for love in all the wrong places. What's a little creepy though is seeing Martin, who wrote the original novel, and the screenplay, play her older lover. He claims she understands he's only in it for the physical relationship, but, of course she doesn't. It took ages to get to the sad end you coud see was coming from about 15 minutes into the film. I rarely long for a movie to end but that's what happened this time round.
Then, Sunday, I watched "Don't Come Knocking" the new Wim Wenders/Sam Shepard collaboration. Shepard wrote the story and the screenplay. It's very good. More on this later.....
A quick aside: as a prelude to amongst other things the upcoming "Thank You for Smoking" the Midmorning Show is looking at the increasing amount of smoking on film.
Ouch. Was "Shopgirl" really a rip-off? I liked it. Parts seemed done slowly and carefully, like "Lost In Translation". I liked the poetic observations in Steve Martin's voice-overs, too.
Was the May-December thing creepy? Maybe a little. But are May-December relationships uncommon in movies? Isn't that pretty "normal" in movie plots, esp. when you have a star male lead?
The December character, Ray Porter, was flawed and often unsympathetic. Martin didn't give Porter a free pass on his actions, thoughts, nor feelings (nor Porter's lack of feeling). Martin looked critically at the character. He wasn't out to create a wish-fulfillment fantasy for aging men. Instead, didn't he make a movie that showed people in situations that are complicated by their own authentic emotions?
Maybe, Mr. Kerr, you saw how it was going to end. But isn't seeing how it all gets fleshed out part of why we enjoy movies? Isn't it worth it when we see stock characters turned into individual people? That was my impression from Stephanie Curtis's March 7th comments about "Hustle and Flow" and "The Squid and the Whale". I don't know... I guess I don't know much about movies. But I know I liked "Shopgirl".
I am not saying May-December relationships are creepy. It's more that a writer who create such a story and then cast himself in the December role. Yes, Martin's character later admits that he has been a jerk, but its not enough for me to shake this mild feeling of queasiness.
I do think you have a very valid interpretation of what Martin was trying to do, and I am glad you liked the film, but I can can't deny my own reaction. Which, of course with $1.50 is worth just about enough to get you a cup of high end coffee!