Friday, August 31, 2007

Shopgirl and Broken English: What is Wrong with these Movies?

What is up with you, Ms. Zoe Cassevetes? What is going on, Mr. Steve Martin? There are actually six movies here, each of these stories being broken down into three different mismatching parts, so variant that they're almost in disagreement with each other.

"Broken English" is not a movie in three acts, it's a movie in three movies. In the first movie, Parker Posey stars as a drunk, irritated single girl in her thirties who's striking out in love. She dates a gay guy. She dates a guy who is hung up on his ex. She dates a famous guy who has another girlfriend. She dates a marmoset. It's wacky, it's dry, and everyone is walking around with a cocktail having good lines. I am all over it. Whee!

Then Parker Posey meets Julian, this French guy in a straw hat who is wearing a linen or, wait, was it seersucker blazer over a grey v-neck t-shirt. I don't even want to talk about his shoes or his scrawny bullet head. We are comfortably assuming that he's going to be another awful lesson in what not to date, when we realize, wait, we are supposed to be loving him. This is when movie #2 begins, which is about their very serious and interesting and important romance, except that I never buy they are in love, because of his bobbly head and her constant drunkenness. Movie #2 goes on way too long. They take a bath together. He keeps kissing her on the forehead. I get fidgety. All the shots are very close and making me regret our HDTV. Parker Posey has a panic attack over a plate of cannolis and I know what she's going through.

Fortunately, movie #3 is about to begin. Suddenly, Julian McFrencherton is leaving for Paris immediately and after he shakes off the unflattering Parker Posey hanging on his abdomen, he goes. He leaves her a number to reach her in Paris. Now the camera backs up to a comfortable distance and the movie becomes a Lifetime TV Drama about how Parker Posey must now go off to Paris and find him. Except drat! She loses his number. Most of movie #3 is about Parker Posey and her totally best superfriend, who looks like what Portia de Rossi would have looked like if she had turned to drastic cosmetic surgery to make her look the way she looks, trip around Paris. It is neither picturesque nor droll. It is kind of desperate. Skintight Portia de Rossi leaves, Parker Posey stays, and there are scenes on public transportation where the Eiffel tower is seen going by.

She finds him. They have a conversation in a deli. The end. What do all three of these movies have in common? In all of them, I love Parker Posey, but I hate what she's doing to me.

Now, on to Shopgirl I, II, and III.

In Shopgirl I, Claire Danes is a moist, long-eared gazelle who works at Saks and has trouble finding a boyfriend. She briefly dates Steve Carrell, played by Jason Schwartzman, but he's so flaky. It is from this movie that most of the trailer is harvested, making us think the movie is a comedy. There is a funny bit with the cat.

In Shopgirl II, Claire Danes is a pensive gazelle who works at Saks and has a weird, tense relationship with a rich and taciturn Steve Martin, who gets to kiss her, fondle her, and pretend to have sex with her. At one point, she stops taking her anti-depressants and has some kind of awful breakdown. Awkward for them, awkward for us. But at least, during that scene, she had a facial expression.

In Shopgirl III, Claire Danes is an emotionally matured gazelle who realizes that Steve Martin is never going to love her properly, so goes back to Steve Carrell, played by Jason Schwartzman. He has fortunately spent the second movie on tour with a band listening to self help tapes, and now knows how to comb his hair and wear white suits. She becomes a famous artist and is happy with her dopey boyfriend, although she still secretly deeply tragically hopelesly pines for the immortal pleasures of Steve Martin and his old richness.

What do these three movies have in common? Claire Danes' hair is never mussed. Steve Martin's voice is never raised. And Steve Carrell looks even hairier than he normally does.

I understand a three act structure, I really do. But if I go to the bathroom watching "Singles" I don't want to come back to "Remains of the Day."


  1. I enjoyed reading your review. I've never seen Broken English . . . so I can't comment, but with Shop Girl I agree with you: it could/should be three separate movies. I know that I shouldn't really like the movie but gosh, for some reason, it just worked for me. Which is strange, cause Lost in Translation (which I think is somewhat similar) REALLY didn't work for me. Maybe it's just the mood I'm in?

  2. I haven't seen Lost in Translation. I guess I feel like it's kind of indulgent and embarrassing for these older men to orchestrate themselves into movies with extremely younger women... watching Steve Martin play this part after he wrote the book, movie, and probably helped cast it... was creepy, I have to admit. Lost in Translation seems similar, like, oh damn, in what world does he get to work next to her. You know? Maybe I'm being unfair.

  3. It's a awesome movie

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