It's an unusual film, with a flawless performance by Claire Danes as the title character and an interesting one by Steve Martin as the older of the two men who pursue her. Jason Schwartzman plays the younger man, and while he grated on me at outset, I think that was the intention. By the end, he'd won me over.
The film moves at a deliberate -- almost stately -- pace, and I suspect it may lose some viewers in the first half hour. Like Martin's short fiction, it's an equisitely detailed miniature, and how you react to it will depend on whether you feel these people are worth the close attention. (Maybe that's why the film has a rather overbearing score, as if the filmmakers felt the need to emphasize that what you're watching is important even if it's not momentous. I would have liked something subtler.)
There are some funny moments, most of them at the expense of Danes' predatory co-worker (played by Bridgette Wilson), but the film isn't principally a comedy. It's an almost melancholy tale of one person's ups and downs on the path to becoming herself -- the stairway leading to Danes' apartment is a wry visual symbol -- told from the point of view of someone who's older and wiser, which is probably why it's Steve Martin and not Danes who does the occasional voiceover. His character discovers, to his great surprise, that he still has some growing up to do.
Thanks should go to my wife; she's the one who insisted we see this last weekend, and she liked it even better than I did. When I complained about the score, she said, "What score?", which is a good indication of how thoroughly the film absorbed her. She doesn't even like Claire Danes as an actress, but loved her in Shopgirl.
(And lest anyone thinks this means it's a "chick flick", my wife also loved Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, which is anything but, and refused to see In Her Shoes, which most certainly is.
I understand the comparison, but it isn't necessarily a sound indicator. I found Lost in Translation a trial to sit through and thought it was one of the most overrated films of the last 10 years. (I recognize that's a minority opinion.
I'm laughing as I type this, because I had a reference to it in my last post but cut it out before hitting "submit". I really liked Broken Flowers, which, in a strange way, struck me as having the same wistful tone as Shopgirl. But they're very different films, and I didn't want to mislead anyone by suggesting that they're similar.
LiT is a more appropriate thematic companion. My problem with it was simply that I thought it was a half-hour story padded to 90 minutes. Shopgirl kept surprising me with new turns, even at the very end (the final exchange between Danes and Martin caught me completely by surprise).
I just got back from seeing Shopgirl. This is going to sound like a weird comment, but...I think the movie was saved by its last 15 minutes, and if I hadn't seen those 15 minutes, I would have thought it was a rip-off. I didn't like the relationship between Steve Martin's character and Claire Danes' character because it was so shallow that watching it play out was depressing. I also didn't like it because it lacked any meaningful dialogue, so I found myself waiting impatiently for it to show some purpose, while it kept repeating the same disappointing pattern. Thankfully, a lesson to be learned from it was eventually revealed, but the wait for that was tough to sit through, because as the relationship unfolded, it seemed to trap the movie in a loop.
Lost In Translation stayed fascinating in the absence of much dialogue and story by providing intriguing visuals of its setting, and making sure that the occasional dialogue it threw in was intelligent, thoughtful, or endearing. I've heard Shopgirl referred to as "Lost In Translation on steroids", and I laughed at one point during the movie because I realized how apt the description was. It's true because the movie has a similar pace and mood to that of Lost In Translation, but isn't as focused, having too many things happening that are pointless, repetitive, and shallow.
I wanted to know more about how the characters felt, and just got sick of watching them use poor judgment without finding out enough about why they did what they did, and how it made them feel. I think the characters sometimes acted too much like characters from a story whose actions were done only for the purpose of making the story as descriptive as possible, instead of being plausible or making some point.
That was how I felt until the the last 15 minutes of the movie. Jason Schwartzman's character comes back to prominence with about 15 minutes left in the movie after being focused on only briefly occasionally for awhile, and from that point, things gets more interesting than they had been for most of the movie. There's a great comedic scene in this period, and he and the other characters start to actually seem like they're learning around the time that it happens, instead of doing the same stupid things over and over again as they had throughout the movie!
I am glad that, at the end, Steve Martin's character finally opened up a little, and his narration finally offered some insight and established that the movie did have a point and a message. However, the road to that point was often boring, frustrating, and tiresome. The last 15 minutes aren't anything startlingly original or life-changing that every moviegoer should see, but they make the rest of the movie worth sitting through if it's enough for you to at the end of a movie get a nice statement/moral about love and relationships that you probably already knew, but can appreciate being reminded of anyway.
While the story is fairly predictable (obviously there is a reason we still follow Jeremy's character), I related to many of the emotions of the various characters in the film. The last 10 minutes of the film absolutely broke my heart.
And for the record, I loved "Lost in Translation" even more.
It was okay. It's worth a matinee. The narration wasn't really needed, and detracted from what was already shown on-screen. It was like Steve Martin saw my thumb and decided he needed to hammer it over and over again.
My wife and I caught Shopgirl yesterday. Claire Danes is a revelation in this film and completely steals it. I thought it was a good movie, but not a great one. The comparisons to Lost in Translation are inevitable I suppose, but about the only thing they have in common is the younger woman/older man relationship. For the record I enjoyed Sofia Coppola's film a lot more than Shopgirl.