by Alan Rapp on November 10, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

Claire Danes plays a normal shopgirl (similar to Jennifer Aniston in The Good Girl) who has a boring life.  She meets two men she should probably avoid, but instead makes the odd choice to begin long and torturous (for the audience) relationships with both of them.  Total misfire here folks. 

1 Star

Steve Martin’s novella might be a wonderful story but you’d have a hard time convincing anyone of that after they see this pretentious and emotionless thud of a movie.  This movie is a mess of bad direction, odd editing, and both over the top and totally unemotional acting.  One of the biggest disappointments of the year.

Mirabelle (Claire Danes) works for Saks Fifth Avenue selling women’s formal gloves behind a counter and leading a rather uninteresting life.

Into that life walk two distinctly different men.  Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), an odd loser who seems to care deeply about computer fonts and amplifiers, runs into Mirabelle at the laundromat.  Ray (Steve Martin) is a wealthy older man who meets Mirabelle at work and buys her a pair of $150 gloves.  Will she choose the compassionate mess of Jeremy or the more stable but less emotionally available Ray?

Mirabelle is the most boring character I’ve seen on screen in some time.  The script makes Danes play her as ordinary as possible, but ordinary on film is dreadfully boring.  The film explains why she is so boring and ordinary by joking she is from Vermont at least three times over the course of the picture.

The film also can’t decide who Mirabelle is.  It’s almost as if she’s being presented from someone else’s point of view who doesn’t quite get her (Martin’s character perhaps? who also narrates), but if that’s the case the movie shouldn’t be shot almost completely from her perspective.  Is she the struggling artist or realist?  Is she the depressed pill popper or happy girl friday?  Is she a conservative or cheap slut (hey, she sleeps with the only men she comes into contact with in the film, and for no other reason than they are there)?

And if this girl is so damn normal and unremarkable why do these two guys want her, at least at times, during the movie?  The romantic scenes between Danes and Martin, who is more than twice her age, are cringe inducing, but they aren’t nearly as bad as the horrendously awful emotional moments between Danes and Schwartzman.

Scwartzman is just creepy as Jeremy through the first two-thirds of the movie.  Mirabelle must truly be hard-up to phone this guy.  She also doesn’t have any problem with Martin propositioning her to begin the relationship.  Since according to the film these are the only two men in L.A. I guess that’s all she has to choose from.  Yeesh!

There are large inconsistancies that nagged me throughout the film.  Why is Ray in a woman’s clothing store which led to their first encounter?  Mirabelle has no friends or acquantances except for one scene where she needs to tell someone about Ray and we have a short scene with her and two women.  Who are they?  Well I’m not sure since they don’t say much, are given no names, and immediately disappear and never come back.

The only other character that has any purpose to the movie is Lisa (Bridgette Wilson) whose soul purpose in the plot is to make Mirabelle not seem like a gold digger after Martin’s money by having Lisa be the epitome of that character.  Wilson does fine in the role, but again there’s not much there to begin with.  The only other reason for her character’s inclusion, and for Jeremy’s zaninous, is for the punchline of a joke between them that mostly falls flat.

I really disliked this film.  There’s no performances to enjoy, the characters are all empty, and the story doesn’t give them anything to do.  Mirabelle’s choice between Ray and Jeremy reaches the obvious Hollywood conclusion and then we are stuck with ten more minutes of needless epilogue.  Cringe inducing moments fill the one hour and forty-five minute screentime.  One of the few bright spots is Martin’s narration which leads me to believe that the book might be worth reading; the film however is a different story.

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