Shopgirl (Anand Tucker). 104 minutes. Opens Friday (October 21). For venues and times, see Movies, page 102. Rating: NN
Just when you thought Steve Martin couldn't sink any lower - lately, he's been next to De Niro on the "will do anything for money" scale - he turns his own wonderfully written, dry, bittersweet novella Shopgirl into a soulless romantic comedy. To be fair, it's not entirely his fault. He did try to say no to turning his mostly dialogue-free tale into a film, because he knew the strength and tone of the story came from the passive voice describing an everywoman sales clerk's ups and downs in love and life.
But he did approve Anand Tucker as director, inconsistent narration, a painfully unsubtle musical score and the casting of Jason Schwartzman as Mirabelle's ( Claire Danes ) potential love Jeremy, and himself as slick older man Ray, Jeremy's rival. Hard to say which is worse - the aging tycoon seducing the waif or Schwartzman, who removes all of the novel's nuances from his slacker character and decides to play it for broad comedy.
Luckily for Martin, Danes is a real talent. Despite her own celebrity, her transformation from wallflower to swan is believable and poignant.
As for the comparisons to another acclaimed recent film about an older man and a young woman, forget it. All the novella's power was Lost In Adaptation.