American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
One of the things you cannot do in this life is impose conditions on love. Another impossibility is to expect another's heart to accommodate your own desires and needs. You may think that cleverness, power or money will work on your behalf, but eventually you will end up feeling the way you really feel, and so will the other person, and there is no argument more useless than the one that begins with the words "But I thought we had an agreement."
"Shopgirl" is a tender and perceptive film that argues these truths. It is about an older man named Ray Porter, a millionaire, who sees a young woman named Mirabelle Buttersfield standing behind the glove counter at Saks, and desires her. He goes through the motions of buying some gloves. Perhaps the gray? "I prefer the black," she says, and so he buys the black, and that night on her doorstep she finds the gloves, neatly gift-wrapped and with a note inside: "Will you have dinner with me? Ray Porter."
Now compare the elegance of this approach with the other man who desires her company. This is Jeremy, who is about her age in years but about 12 in knowledge about the ways of women. You do not honk your horn on a first date and expect the woman to hurry out to your car. You do not pretend you only want to people-watch until she agrees to buy her own ticket to the movies. You do not attempt one of those dreadful snuffling blind approaches to a kiss, the kind where the girl doesn't know if you're trying to kiss her or maybe just got something caught in your throat while staring at her breasts. I've been around a long time, and young men, if there is one thing I know, it is that the only way to kiss a girl for the first time is to look like you want to and intend to, and move in fast enough to seem eager but slow enough to give her a chance to say "So anyway ..." and look up as if she's trying to remember your name.
All of these things and more are known to Ray Porter (Steve Martin). Yes, he is 35 years older than Mirabelle (Claire Danes), but we're not talking marriage here, we're talking about a relationship based on shared assumptions and friendly sex, plus a lot of Ray Porter's money, which he is spending not to purchase Mirabelle but simply to provide himself with a woman who dresses, dines and travels up to his standards. Watch him get shifty when she suggests he stay at her place one night.