Thursday, September 13, 2007

Book to Movie #2: Shopgirl

Shopgirl is a novella by Steve Martin, and also a movie written and produced by Steve Martin. Yes, that Steve Martin!

Why Shopgirl? Well, I've read some of Steve Martin's nonfiction, and I have wanted to read his foray into fiction for a long time. Just never got around to it, I guess.

The book is short at 130 pages, and it reads quickly as most novellas do. The story is simple: Mirabelle (the shopgirl of the title) works at the glove counter at Neiman Marcus, a seldom-frequented section of the store next to couture. She lives her quiet, dare I say mundane life, until a few things happen: she meets Jeremy at the laundromat, and she meets Ray at work. The story is how these two very different men interact with Mirabelle, and how all three characters change.

The story is written in present tense, which adds a sense of immediacy (it could be happening right now). I couldn't help but hear Steve Martin's voice in my head as I read (even though I read before I saw the movie, in which he is also the narrator).

I must caution that the book is rated R, as is the movie (although the movie is much tamer than the book language-wise). The book is rife with raw, almost vulgar, sexual language. It's almost jarring when suddenly there is a comment about f---ing just thrown in. The language just seems out of place in this story.

The movie:
I finished the book just before watching the movie, and the two are very close (as one might suspect when the same man is the author of both). Claire Danes plays Mirabelle, and she's much more beautiful than I pictured Mirabelle to be from the book. Jason Schwartzman plays Jeremy, and he is a good choice for the role. I laughed out loud at how awful his character was in the beginning; I think he was worse in the movie than the book, at first! Steve Martin is the perfect Ray, of course, and he adds a vulnerability to the character that isn't as evident in the book.

I liked the movie better than the book, because the crass language isn't there to jar my sense of story. It has an almost fairy tale quality to it, and the vulgar sexuality is turned into a sensuality on screen that seems much more consistent with the story's tone, and with the whole older man-younger woman relationship.

As an aside: Blockbuster has this in the drama, not comedy, section, in case you want to rent it.

PS: I have two copies of the novella available on my Paperback Swap account, if you're interested.


Callista said...

Interesting review, I don't think I'll be reading this book though. I've posted a link to your review.

Megan said...

It's interesting that the tone sounds so different in the movie than the book, even though Steve Martin was involved in both. Almost makes you wonder if he didn't quite right it out the way it was in his head.

I definitely have to get my hands on this movie.

Maria said...

not any more you don't -- btw Alli read Win Dixie in a little over a day and LOVED it!.....