Known Johnson

November 7, 2005

Together alone

Filed under: General,Movies — Tom @ 12:57 pm

Alissa and I decided that maybe this weekend we needed to do something sans-baby, things we hadn’t been able to do for a couple months. We opted for a movie and dinner (in that order – we’re cheap and hit the matinee) while my parents hovered anxiously over Amanda for the afternoon, just waiting for signs of a smile, a diaper filling, or as is often the case, both. We chose to partake of Steve Martin’s new film, Shopgirl, based on one of his novellas. It’s better than the Rotten Tomatoes collective indicates – but don’t be expecting typical Steve Martin here. In this role, Martin is a predatorial older man, Ray Porter, preying on an unsuspecting loner played by Claire Danes’ Mirabelle Buttersfield, whose experiences with men, if her encounters with Jason Schwartzman’s odd outcast, Jeremy, are any indication, are few and awkward, at best. A budding, but struggling and hesitant artist biding her time behind the counter at Saks Fifth Avenue, Mirabelle’s life is empty. While she attempts to find a way to fit the oddball Jeremy into it, his bluntly bumbling ways simply don’t work out – and Ray steps in at exactly the right moment to whisk her away to nights filled with expensive dinners, private jets, and gifts galore. As you may already have guessed, both Mirabelle and Ray are looking for exactly the opposite of what they get out of the relationship, and, as in real life, wind up willfully blinding themselves to what is so obviously wrong.

It’s not a comedy, per se, but Shopgirl has a smartly comic and realistic touch – earmarks of what Martin brings to the writing. And, with an equally smart and deft touch, Martin crafts his role as Ray Porter such that he’s creepy in a “dirty old man” way and yet you still find something about him to like, which allows his romance with Mirabelle to ring more true than many other films would let it.

(I’ll also refer you to the much more accurate Roger Ebert review, with the caveat that I think Mirabelle is much more ambiguous and naive than he makes her out to be.)

We capped off the movie with dinner at the Jumper of Claims, home of massive plates filled with massive portions. (Side question: do they really need a Flash-based site?) Alissa chose her usual rotisserie chicken (with a giant glob of mashed potatoes and an apple muffin) and I opted for the chicken & biscuits dinner, and I got the “full” size because, well, it’s just two chicken breasts. What I forgot was that while the two chicken breasts aren’t overwhelmingly huge, the biscuits that come with it are, and in addition to the shoe-string fries (in place of the mashed potatoes – I’m not a fan, they’re just too creamy for me) it really does make for a hell of a lot of food. As it was, I took home one of the two enormogantic biscuits, but minus the sweet honey-butter they give you, which is a shame because it really is delicious on the biscuit. As good as that was, I wound up wishing I’d gotten a burger – their burgers are excellent, and it’s a very hard choice to make in deciding not to have one.

And then that was it – our wild, carefree afternoon was spent, and we happily returned to pick up Amanda. As Alissa put it, and there’s no way around it, it just felt kind of weird to be away from her, and alone together. We’ve been to ASU football games without her, with her dad and older brother, but “us,” together alone, doesn’t feel complete without tiny Amanda diverting our attention and entertaining us with smiles and noises. I guess the idea of a family, your own family, creeps into you, and makes itself known not by the presence of your loved ones, but by their absence.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] Shopgirl: I’m a sucker for Steve Martin. He’s generally very good in all of his roles, but that’s probably because he always seems to play himself. Not so here – even though he penned the novella and the screenplay, he’s cast as the elder gentleman who puts the moves on a willingly naive young woman, and it’s just plain creepy. Read my thoughts on it here. (As good as Martin is, I will not be seeing The Pink Panther. Are you friggin’ kidding me?) […]

    Pingback by Known Johnson » Blog Archive » 2005 in filmic adventures — January 31, 2006 @ 11:25 am | Reply


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