Shopgirl capitalizes on the concept that the paths that relationships take throughout our lives, like most movie plotlines, are universally understood. Martin has pushed that concept a step further and combined them. Taking all the times in our lives when we were petty or strong, adding better writing and some super-saturated color editing, Martin is selling our own lives back to us as a film. Shopgirl follows Mirabelle (Claire Danes) and Roy (Steve Martin) as they play out their roles in a relationship both know can never succeed. In this sense, Shopgirl is just another take on the classic plotline of a girl and a boy falling in and out of love.
What separates Martin's work from being just another example of this universal plotline is its discomforting realism. Martin's screenplay will make you squirm as the characters knowingly destroy the best things in their lives. You know that these people love each other, but they just don't love each other enough. As in life, hurtful moments are followed by scenes of incredible tenderness. The lesson here is that Martin stole those good things from us, too. He simply shows us what would have happened if we all had better screenwriters.
In many ways, the screen version of Shopgirl follows the same arc of the novella. It has the intelligent, light humor of Steve Martin (yes, the same guy who started out in the white suit with the rabbit's ears has a light touch). It still has relationships, loneliness and the selfishness of men. The fact that it is beautifully filmed makes it a little easier to swallow. The best part, though? I walked away this time feeling good about the world. Maybe now I know what I'm doing, too. (Rated R)