Whether intentional or not, Steve Martin's Shopgirl (based on the novella of the same name) is a source of encouragement for every non-blonde female living in Los Angeles. If only Shopgirl was an accurate depiction of how ordinary girls living in Silverlake behave. But no, they all have to walk around in Siouxsie and the Banshees t-shirts or some other once good band that is now ruined by the fact that scores of hipster drones have to don garb that proves how obscure their taste in music is. But I digress. Back to the heroine of the film, Mirabelle Buttersfield (Claire Danes), a far from plucky twenty-something who goes through each day sitting in boredom at the glove department of Saks in Beverly Hills.
Mirabelle, like the other approximately 3.5 of 4 million living in L.A., has loose aspirations of being an artist. During the time when she isn't working or creating charcoal paintings, her life is a portrait of mundanity and loneliness, evidenced by the one bedroom apartment she lives in with her cat and antidepressants.
One night, while at the laundromat, the course of Mirabelle's life is altered by a chance meeting with Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), another would-be artist who works for a company that sells amps. Jeremy is forward enough to ask for her number and the two end up going out on a date that can only be likened to the awkwardness between Madonna and Courtney Love during Kurt Loder's 1995 interview with the former at the MTV Video Music Awards.
Mirabelle, without reservations, throws Jeremy's number away after their first date, but on an evening of sexual desperation, retrieves it from the trash and calls him. The encounter, Mirabelle finds, leaves her more unfulfilled than before. Jeremy's odds of being with Mirabelle are further diminished in subsequent weeks when Ray Porter (Steve Martin) boldly approaches Mirabelle at Saks and asks for a pair of black gloves. Soon after, Mirabelle discovers that the gloves were actually a gift for her.
As is the case in reality, Mirabelle is not totally disgusted by how much older Ray is and agrees to go out with him. A brief mention of her relationship with her father and how removed he is gives a window into why Mirabelle might be attracted to Ray, but other than that, it's probably because 1) He has money and 2) It's not like Mirabelle has an overflowing social life to use as an excuse for avoidance.
The relationship that forms between Mirabelle and Ray seems, at first, problem-free, but it doesn't take long for Ray to reveal how emotionally stunted he is. The closer Mirabelle tries to get, the more he tries to distance her with a slew of expensive trinkets. As this invisible barrier to Ray's heart grows larger, Mirabelle happens to run into Jeremy (who has been traveling across the country with a band) again at a gallery opening. The connection between them is stronger than before as Jeremy admits that he didn't treat her the way she deserved to be.
Mirabelle ultimately opts for a relationship with Jeremy, even though she was truly in love with Ray, a result that fortifies the fundamental message of the film: Those who remain closed off will end up destitute.