Little Shopgirl Around the Corner

I’m not going to pretend to care about the new film of Everything Is Illuminated (because I didn’t care about the book, and the sight of Elijah Wood in horn-rimmed eyeglasses fills me with inexplicable revulsion).

However, I am interested in the upcoming film version of Steve Martin’s appealing novel Shopgirl. This book was an exercise in Beverly Hills minimalism: a wealthy older man conducts a crisp love affair with a shy clerk at an expensive clothing store. He discovers in her an empty intellectual vessel, devoid of ideas and conviction, but with a capacity for love that touches him deeply (for a short while before he moves on). The book revels in her exquisite emptiness, laying out the blueprint of her brain as if it were an uninhabited house on a very fashionable street.

The trailer for the film shows Steve Martin playing himself (Bill Murray would have been the natural choice for this role, if Martin hadn’t wanted it) and Claire Danes as the woman. I’m not sure about the choice of Claire Danes — past evidence shows that this actress can do at most three different facial expressions, and she runs through all of them in the trailer, leaving nothing for the rest of the film. There’s also apparently an enhanced subplot featuring Jason Schwartzman as the other guy in the shopgirl’s life.

I have a feeling I’m not going to love this movie, but I enjoyed the book enough that I will check it out. There is no doubt that Steve Martin is a real writer, but I’d like to dig deeper into his catalog. I’m thinking Jim Carrey in Cruel Shoes.

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