The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Friday, April 28, 2006

Books to Film - Shopgirl

by Melissa Bell

Steve Martin’s Shopgirl became available on DVD this week. I missed it in the theatres (although “missed it” is hardly accurate – I deliberately chose to wait for its appearance on the shelves of my local Blockbuster), and I’m curious about it- curious to see how Mr. Martin adapts his own novel(la) to the big (and my little) screen.

Having read the book, I think I must have made one of those scrinchy faces that I make when I hear some rather weird news. In this case, the fact that Steve Martin was not only going have his novel(la) made into a film, but he was going to write the screenplay himself and play the lead role of Ray Porter.

Dude, if you’re going to do that, why’d ya bother to write the book in the first place?

I’ve always liked Steve Martin. I think he’s a fine man. And I thought he had turned a corner when he’d gone from doing such horror shows like Sgt. Bilko to writing plays. Then he started doing stuff for the New Yorker. And then out came Shopgirl. This was no Lolita or Anna Karenina or [insert novel of man’s eternal struggle here] – it was just a nice, decently written book that showed another facet of the author. Steve Martin – actor, comedy writer, musician, playwright…novelist.

So what made him take his book to the screen? And cast himself in the lead role?

Was he selling out? No! Not Steve Martin! Not the guy who seriously collected art, liked dogs, and the company of mathematicians! Then again, what else could it be? It’s not like Shopgirl was something that begged for big screen adaptation – it’s hardly The DaVinci Code. I couldn’t even imagine it as a movie – I still can’t (hence my curiosity to check out the DVD), because it’s really just a “thinky” little book with not much happening. Certainly not enough for me to fork over $16 at my Cineplex.

So when I heard about the forthcoming film edition, with Steve Martin as screenwriter and star, it just sounded... strange. Was this really Mr. Martin’s serious attempt at exploring literary fiction? Or was it just some drawn out treatment for a film that would score him some pocket money from the bookstores as he waited for a producer to pick up the movie rights?

And here’s where I get into fights with a lot of people (luckily they’re the kind of fights that are easily forgotten if I just buy the next round, but still).

I’m not against double-dipping in terms of media. I’ve done it myself. But given the subject matter of Shopgirl – a rich older man dates an emotionally unstable and much younger (and poorer) woman – it felt just this side of creepy-hidden-Hollywood-agenda when Steve Martin tossed himself into the adaptation of his own story rather than just turning the whole thing over to somebody else and graciously going about the business of working on his next book. Or starring in the remake of something family- and fan-friendly. Because as charismatic and well-preserved as Steve Martin is, do I really want to see him and a half-his-age-at-most Claire Danes have on-screen sex? No. No, I certainly do not. And I’m not sure why Steve Martin would think his fans would want to see that either.

Which is a nice thing about waiting for the DVD: the fast forward button.


Blogger Anne C. said...

Is this a good time to say that Bowfinger is one of my favourite movies ever?

Fri Apr 28, 10:18:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

great...this is wonderful!! you've put this together incredibly, I have heard mixed things about this, my hubby said the book stank, his word, and well....let us know what you think about the movie. thanks xoxoxo

Fri Apr 28, 01:56:00 pm GMT-4  

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