Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Two Triangles

Shopgirl (written by Steve Martin, based on his novella, and directed by Anand Tucker) and Match Point (written and directed by Woody Allen) -- both excellent films -- were both, fittingly, released the same week on DVD. It was interesting watching these films back-to-back, as both deal with a relationship triangle -- in Shopgirl, a woman and two men, in Match Point, a man and two women. While the outcomes of each are quite different, the elements involved in both are rather similar, not the least of which is the involvement of money. In Shopgirl, the central female character, Mirabelle Buttersfield (Claire Danes), is willing to leave her wealthy boyfriend Ray Porter (played with great pathos by Martin) -- who she believes she "loves" -- simply because he can't say he loves her back; while in Match Point the central male character, Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is ultimately willing to kill the woman he claims to love, Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson), so he can retain the comfortable life he has established with his wealthy (if somewhat nagging and spoiled) wife. Obviously, men and women come in all flavors, and these two films expose us to six of them. Yet, it is further interesting that insecurities drives the action of both films. Ray Porter and Jeremy Kraft (Jason Schwartzman), his ultimate rival for Mirabelle's attention, both suffer from insecurities, as does Mirabelle herself (she requires anti-depressants). The same holds true for the characters of Match Point, but the difference in each film is the pivotal actions of the person at the point of each triangle. Both of these characters are at a crossroads in their lives -- neither's life has gone as they might have hoped. Mirabelle wants to be an artist, but allows herself to be a salesperson at the woman's decorative glove department at Saks (even though no one buys decorative gloves anymore). Chris Wilton, is a former tennis pro who's career never got passed a certain point. He wants more. So does Mirabelle. And initially, both turn to another with money to give them that "more." Mirabelle allows herself to find sexual and emotional satisfaction with her wealthy boyfriend as well. Chris has neither sexual nor emotional satisfaction with his rich wife and seeks it in the arms of Nola. However, when both reach a crisis point -- and a point of decision making -- Mirabelle opts to leave the money and hope for love (or the closest thing she can get to it) elsewhere. (Is this the pragmatic thing to do?) When push comes to shove for Chris -- as his mistress Nola becomes pregnant, in a rather Fatal Attraction sort of way -- he refuses to lose what he has gained (even though he has subjugated his very self to get it) and is willing to kill to keep it. Both films are amazingly well acted, and shed important insights on male and female relations, and what affects them.

Good post. One question: is there a person alive who doesn't suffer from insecurities? I've been around a while and I've never met one.
Having not seen Matchpoint I can't comment on it, but seeing Shopgirl and reading the book (ok...listening to the book on CD)I feel I can. I am not convinced that Mirabelle is lured in by Ray Porter's money. I think it is more about what the money is evidence of. The money is evidence of a man who took risks, who travels, who meets interesting people and carries on intersting discussions. When Jeremy could do all those things then she was in to him as well. I think the interesting psychology in this novella/movie is that while Mirabelle held a kind of disdain for Jeremy for living a rather mundane life she completely relied on Ray Porter's life to vicariously make her life exciting and charming. And while she rejected Jeremy he went off and did just that...made his life exciting and charming.
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