© 2005 Ray Wong
Stars: Steve Martin, Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman, Bridgette Wilson, Sam Bottoms, Frances Conroy
Director: Anand Tucker
Writer: Steve Martin (based on his novel)
Distributor: Buena Vista
Rating: R for language, nudity and sexual situations
Script – 6
Performance – 8
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total – 6.5 out of 10
Steve Martin once said that if Claire Danes didn’t get an Oscar nomination this year, he would kill himself. Well, soon the Academy Awards will be upon us, and we’ll see if Martin would have to eat his words.
Mirabelle Butterfield (Danes) is a disillusioned girl from Vermont, who arrived in Los Angeles in hopes of becoming an artist. Stuck at a boring job selling gloves at Saks in Beverly Hills, Mirabelle watches apparently-happy couples come and go, and dreams of a romance of her own. She meets Jeremy (Schwartzman), a would-be rocker living in a crappy apartment, a boy trapped in a grown man’s body. Mirabelle and Jeremy don’t really hit it off from the start, but they share a cautious but mutual attraction.
Then a wealthy divorcee, Ray Porter (Martin), starts to court Mirabelle. Ray is a complete opposite to Jeremy: wealthy, attentive and gentlemanly. Lured by Ray’s mature charm, Mirabelle carries on a sexual relationship with him and ditches Jeremy, who in turn joins a rock band and goes on the road for months. Despite the fact that Ray has warned Mirabelle he would never be close to her and love her back, she falls in love with him anyway.
Regardless of Martin’s arrogant claim, Danes (STAGE BEAUTY) is rather exceptional in this offbeat tale of love and discovery. Her character is very hard to play, because so much of it is internalized and her actions only speak part of the truth about her. Danes handles the role very well and we believe her. She’s also beautiful and funny and introspective, reminding me of Audrey Tautou in AMIELIE. Martin (CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN) plays against type as the reserved, remote and restrained Porter. His role is probably the hardest to play, since the audience is not allowed to get inside his head or heart (except for one scene in which he talks to, supposedly, his psychiatrist). Surprisingly, Martin and Danes have great chemistry together, despite their age difference. Schwartzman (BEWITCHED) probably has the most fun playing the goofball boy-man Jeremy. In a way, it’s also the most superficial role of the three leads, but a very good comic relief. His performance makes us laugh.
The supporting cast is fine. Wilson (EXTREME OPS) has the thankless job playing the only villain/vixen. But her scenes with Schwartzman are hilarious. Bottoms (SEABISCUITS) and Conroy (BROKEN FLOWERS) play the almost-silent parts of Mirabelle’s depressing parents to perfection.
Based on Martin’s novel, the film has an artsy fartsy feel to it. From the opening scenes to the lingering close-ups to the deliberate medium shots, the film is an exercise of mixing the profound with the profane. At times, it feels tired though. Martin’s voice over is specially cheesy and unnecessary. It takes us out of the story. Besides, having Martin playing a main character and serving as the narrator confuses the audience. The film also has a grating loop of background music. Cut that out!
In director Tucker’s (HILARY & JACKIE) inexperienced hands, the film actually feels solid, but uneven. At times it is hilarious, with its quirky characters and funny dialogue. At times, especially when the film focuses on the relationship between Mirabelle and Ray, it feels heavy-handed. A few scenes also feel melodramatic, and lack certain sincerity that is otherwise prevalent in the rest of the film. The characters’ transformations at the end feel inevitable. Still, it’s a nice little film with interesting characters. Look for it at the shops if you want something a little different.