A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the movie includes several "artfully" rendered sex scenes (filtered light, close-ups of beautiful faces), a couple that are comic (one raunchy, with handcuffs and black lace underwear, another interrupted by a cat), and some sex jokes, visual (a men is spotted masturbating through a telescope) and verbal (concerning "performance" and "anxiety). The film also features repeated conversations about relationships, and there's some discussion of one lover being old enough to be a young woman's father). Characters discuss condoms and fellatio, smoke and drink, and rock band members do drugs and encourage groupies.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
When Mirabelle Buttersfield (Claire Danes), a sales clerk by day and artist by night, meets Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman) -- unshaved and wearing a torn t-shirt, clever and endearingly clumsy in his efforts to impress her -- she's less than thrilled by his distractedness (he's also an artist, a designer of fonts and advertising logos). Within days, she's approached at work by the impeccably groomed and designer-suited Ray (Steve Martin). Their dates are more formal, and she's aware that he maintains an emotional distance. Still, Mirabelle rejects Jeremy in favor of Ray, and the younger man takes off on a road trip with a rock band, along the way coming to understand how he didn't treat Mirabelle with the proper respect and interest. At the same time, Ray repeatedly disappoints Mirabelle, by spending days in Seattle, where he has a second, equally expensively-outfitted home, and by cheating on her with a former girlfriend (Rebecca Pidgeon).
Is it any good?
Meticulously crafted, Anand Tucker's SHOPGIRL is not so overtly emotionally adventurous as his previous movie Hilary and Jackie (1998). But it is similarly interested in the built-in deceptions of romance and the cruelties of self-protective decisions. Though Mirabelle briefly envies the seeming wisdom and cynicism of fellow shopgirl and more experienced dater Lisa (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras), she soon realizes that her own sensitivities -- even her artistic sensibilities -- are more valuable.
At least, this is the film's judgment. And this is the most troubling aspect of the film. For all its seeming delicacy, its view of Mirabelle as perfect, precious object is decidedly limited. Though Danes is a lovely, subtle performer, and Peter J. Suschitzky's camera showcases her unusual beauty, the film never grants Mirabelle her own life: she remains a child-woman in search of a male redeemer. Her men are manifestly imperfect and yet, as happens too often, their versions of her define her desires.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Mirabelle's yearning for romance, as this stems from her own family's emotional reserve (pictured when she goes home for a visit and attributed to her father's status as a Vietnam war veteran). How is Mirabelle's choice -- between the older, wealthy Ray, and the scruffy, awkward Jeremy -- limiting, as she's beheld and desired by two men, like a fine object?
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