I’m a little late posting today because I took advantage of one of the nicest things about being your own boss: I took the afternoon off to go to a movie. I went to see “Shopgirl,” the Steve Martin movie based on his novella of the same name. It’s the latest in movies from aging funny men who’ve turned introspective … with the help of younger women. That’s not an angry feminist slam, although I have been accused in the past of being an angry feminist. (I would argue vociferously that I was just angry and that my ire usually is directed at ignorant stereotyping and belittling of both genders.) I enjoyed “Shopgirl” and the performances of Martin, Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman. The three struggle to make personal connections, but they seem to always be a bit off, proving that in life as well as Martin's original field of comedy, timing is everything.
"Shopgirl" has a sense of wistful detachment that helps move the film beyond the typical Hollywood love triangle. In that regard, it must be compared to "Lost in Translation" in which another 50ish comedian-turned-thespian, Bill Murray, shared an intimate, but ultimately unfulfilled relationship with the younger Scarlett Johansson. Again, that complicated matter of timing comes into play. (Murray also had other mistimed cinematic relationship issues earlier this year in "Broken Flowers," but his leading ladies in that film were closer to his age.)
Not only do “Shopgirl” and “Lost in Translation” share common themes, they share several acting/production credits. Schwartzman was in “Rushmore” with Murray, who shared the screen with Johansson in “… Translation.” And "Shopgirl" director Anand Tucker was producer of “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” another film about an ill-timed relationship between an older man and young woman played by Johansson. It’s not quite Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but the Hollywood incestuousness here is intriguing.
So that’s how I spent a Monday afternoon. Seeing Claire at her Saks Fifth Avenue counter is my favorite type of shopping. I'm really a buyer, not a shopper. I know what I want and if a store doesn't have it or a close approximation thereof, I'm outta there ASAP. So you won't catch me this coming Black Friday, hitting the department stores for the post-Thanksgiving sales that kick off the Christmas shopping season.
If you, however, do enjoy shopping, by all means go for it. If you don't go overboard with your credit card, your purchases might even save you a few bucks at tax time. Our politicians, those same folks who have such a difficult time meeting their own federal budget guidelines, created the sales-tax deduction a couple of years ago, allowing many taxpayers to write off those charges when they file their returns. It might be your last chance for this break; it's set to expire at the end of the year unless Congress extends it. You knew, didn’t you, that I’d manage to bring even a lazy afternoon at the Cineplex back to taxes!
Addendum Nov. 22: For a slightly different version of these thoughts, check out my version posted on Blogcritics.org, "a sinister cabal of superior bloggers on music, books, film, popular culture, technology, and politics."
Addendum Nov. 30: They like me! My Blogcritics version was selected as one of this week's Editors' Picks (TV/Film category): "Kay Bell weighs in with her opinion of Shopgirl and of comedians turning over a new leaf. More than that, she provides thoughtful perspective." Thanks Blogcritics!