Shopgirl (April 23/06)
Shopgirl is based on the novella of the same name by Steve Martin - who also wrote the film's screenplay - and it's certainly an effective and faithful adaptation of the source material. Director Anand Tucker infuses the film with the same kind of whimsical melancholy that defined the book, while the movie's three stars do a wonderful job of stepping into the shoes of their respective characters.
Claire Danes stars as Mirabelle, a lonely department store clerk who finds herself torn between two very different men: Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), an impulsive, fun-loving sort, and Ray Porter (Martin), a rich, elegant businessman.
Right from the film's opening moments, it's clear that Danes is a perfect fit for the character of Mirabelle, effortlessly shedding her persona and becoming this damaged yet hopeful figure. Martin and Schwartzman are just as effective, with Martin delivering one of his most impressive non-comedic performances to date.
The film's only problem, then, is a slight case of overlength; at a running time of around 106 minutes, there's no denying that the movie goes on longer than it needs to (there's a wacky misunderstanding towards the end that's enjoyable enough but entirely superfluous).
Having said that, when Shopgirl works, it really works; were it just a little shorter, it seems likely that the film would've ranked among the best of the year.