Prayer Focus
Movie Review


MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for some sexual content and brief language

Reviewed by: Misty Wagner

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Romance Comedy
1 hr. 44 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 21, 2005 (NYC/LA), later widening
Featuring: Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman, Steve Martin, Frances Conroy, Sam Bottoms, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras
Director: Anand Tucker
Producer: Ashok Amritraj, Jon J. Jashni
Distributor: Touchstone Pictures
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures Copyright, Touchstone Pictures Copyright, Touchstone Pictures Copyright, Touchstone Pictures Copyright, Touchstone Pictures Copyright, Touchstone Pictures Copyright, Touchstone Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures

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Relationship information
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Relationships don’t always fit like a glove.

The opening camera shots in “Shop Girl” focus on the chaos swarming within the city of Los Angeles—the busy interstate, the city itself, and finally throughout Sak’s Fifth Avenue. Much in the way the camera seems to glide over the tops of the downtown buildings, it focuses in and glides over the Sak’s make up counter with its tubes of lipsticks, shadows, blushers and powders on display. Everything shown in those first scenes is vibrant, filled with color and busy. The camera then moves up a floor, from the crowded make-up level, to a nearly vacant floor where dress fittings seem to take place, and there, at the end of the room, standing alone at the lonely glove counter is Mirabelle (Claire Danes).

From the moment we are introduced to Mirabelle Butterfield, she seems out of place in this hive of a city. As she passes other Sak’s employees on her way to and from work, she seems simplistic and plain in comparison. Silent and thoughtful, she seems lonely as the narrator (Steve Martin) explains that Mirabelle came here from Vermont, hoping to connect with others. Hoping to find love, perhaps.

As the film progresses, love interests develop. First, she meets the oddly charming and irresponsible Jeremy (Jason Shwartzman) while doing laundry. Later she is propositioned at work by Ray Porter (Steve Martin). Simplistic, on one hand, the plot of “Shop Girl” is simply that of a quiet girl wanting desperately to be loved, and having two very different men in her life—neither one being anything like what she would have expected or even sought out for herself.

On the other hand, this film is so much more. Well-written, beautifully-filmed and made quite personal by the performances of the actors, this movie will make many viewers fall in love with the character of Mirabelle, whom we learn suffers severely from depression. We begin to understand why her search for love may feel desperate to her as we gather tidbits of her family background. As she chooses to love Ray, who is obviously the more secure and protective choice, we see her perhaps change aspects herself. She seems to do things less for herself and more for Ray, to please him—to help him love her.

Viewers are shown each person’s perspective, as he believes they have an “understanding” (that this is a casual-sex type of arrangement), while she believes she is falling in love with him, and possibly he with her.

Jeremy, inspired by Mirabelle, goes on a quest of his own to find something more in life then the dead end for which he has settled.

This film does a well-rounded job of keeping the audience clued-in to each character’s thoughts and motivations, how they are feeling and at times, even why they are feeling as they do. “Shop Girl” is a beautiful analogy of why casual sex doesn’t turn out well, and why the feeling that someone else loves you doesn’t truly make life any easier, often it only tends to complicate things more.

Though quite emotional and sad at times, this thoughtful film does inspire laughter and carries a balance between depth and lightheartedness.

“Shop Girl” is based on the novel written by Steve Martin. It is a film that many may find easy to love, while many others will probably find it too offensive.

The language in this film, I felt, was moderate, but there are many implied sex scenes. There is nudity—a shower scene shows very brief nudity while another longer scene shows full body backside nudity. Sex is predominant throughout the film, both in scenes as well as in some dialogue. There is one scene of masturbation, and one character (who is a co-worker of Mirabelle) is in a scene where it is implied that intercourse occurred, and there is sex-toy memorabilia present throughout the scene.

Although strong and sometimes edging slightly close to disturbing, I doubt there are many who can walk away from it and take nothing with them. Though not a common scenario that most will face, the themes in this movie are real. Depression is real; the search for love and the lifelong quest to feel loveable is very relatable. I felt this film did a beautiful job in painting a picture that can encourage some, connect with others, and ultimately touch and inspire people in a way that God can use.

Violence: None / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Negative—This is a dreadful movie. It is not even well-made, with a choppy script in which characterization is confused and inconsistent. There are moments of good acting, especially by Clare Danes. But I found Steve Martin repulsive, a sleazy dirty old man who has no redeeming qualities. Although the movie starts out with promise, it turns pretty quickly into a movie about promiscuity. There is no morality at all. Sin is presented as a normal, even beneficial, way of life. I give my harshest morality ratings to movies in which sin is delivered through the vehicle of a likeable character, and we do like her and root for her. But she has no conscience. The story is also ill-conceived, because someone who behaves as she does, entering into affairs so nonchalantly, would not have the demure, sensitive demeanor that she has. Very poorly conceived movie and morally reprehensible. Two thumbs way down for me.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 2½
Neutral—I am a fan of both Steve Martin and Claire Danes, so I was looking forward to seeing this film. However, I found it to be slow in pace, although the subject matter was very relevant to the times we live in. Mirabelle (Danes) is a lonely girl who has moved from Vermont to LA. I liked the way it was made obvious how her character did not fit in with the typical LA population. And the overall message is: you get what you give. With this, I am reminded of the song by Michael W. Smith, “Give it Away,” which has the line: “…we can entertain compassion for a world in need of care, but the road of good intentions doesn’t lead to anywhere… because love isn’t love “till you give it away…” Indeed, Ray (Martin) states this at the film’s end as narrator, that, “He wondered how the woman he had kept at a distance to keep from missing her when she left, was the woman he missed.”

Although I enjoyed the film for what it was, it was very secular in that casual sex was considered quite normal. And the sex scenes were tasteful, but since no one was married, they would not be acceptable in the eyes of God. Without the sex, the film would have been much more wholesome, but then it would have been less realistic, unfortunately, based on today’s standards of sex.

I wouldn’t recommend this film to anyone, but wouldn’t discourage it either, except to kids under 18. I found the characters to be quite likable and each had depth to their personalities. So, if you go into it knowing it’s created for mass appeal, it is enjoyable for the most part.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 4
Robbe, age 37
Positive—I really liked this movie. I thought it was unique. Yes, there was some nudity, so don’t bring your kids, or a first date. In fact, just go alone so you can really concentrate. I have found myself thinking constantly about this film. Claire Dunn is wonderful and carries the film, Steve Martin is rather one-dimensional, and the Jeremy character is wacky. But it is a very thought provoking film. I wouldn’t call it offensive, but it is rather sad to see the choices that some people make when they don’t really have to, or they don’t have a higher standard to abide by.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4½
Cheryl, age 50
Positive—SHOPGIRL made it onto my top 10 list for this year… at #3, because I think it was a sweet, true-to-life story. I have lived in LA, and while it is a vibrant place, it is also a place that can create a feeling of total emptiness. It can leave you feeling alone and stranded—just like Mirabelle in SHOPGIRL. The movie draws on what the book offers, and it shows Mirabelle as a beautiful, reserved, and delicate young woman who wants nothing more than to be loved. Mirabelle believes that Mr. Ray Porter is offering her what she wants—a connection with someone. But what she defines as love (affection, gifts, sex, closeness), Ray Porter sees as pragmatism. He does those things not because he loves her, but because he is interested in her, fascinated by her, and able to influence her. For him, it’s about power, even though he doesn’t realize it.

Meanwhile, there is Jeremy. Jeremy doesn’t seem to be able to offer Mirabelle any of the material things that Ray Porter can, but he has the potential to give her the one thing Ray Porter cannot: real love. It’s a beautiful story about the loneliness that you can feel in your 20s, especially in the microcosm of Los Angeles.
My Ratings: Average / 4
Liz, age 23
Comments from young people
Negative—…I haven’t seen the movie, but I began reading the book. It was DISGUSTING and very innappropriate. My friends and I were shocked that they sold that book at our school book fair!!! I love fashion, and I read the back of the book and found out that the girl worked at Neiman Marcus (in the movie she works at Saks Fifth Avenue), and since I love Neiman Marcus, I just bought it. I totally regret it and am angry at myself for wasting on that nasty book. If the movie is anything like the book, I would say definitely don’t see it. The “romance” scenes (if you know what I mean) are VERY detailed.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 2½
Bree, age 13
Movie Critics
…depressive and self-regarding not-quite-love story…
Entertainment Weekly, Lisa Schwarzbaum
…Dramatic depth not Martin’s department… Martin is so flat and uninteresting in the role, you have to imagine charms that aren’t apparent…
New York Daily News, Jack Matthews
…the elegantly appointed ‘Shopgirl’ certainly has the goods but it ultimately fails to make the sale…
The Hollywood Reporter, Michael Rechtshaffen