Steve Martin made his name as a 'funny man’. For decades he has made us laugh as a comedy 'jack of all trades’. Twice doing the impossible, as host of the Academy Awards (2001, 2003). Thirteen times as guest host for American TV institution Saturday Night Live (1975) where he pioneered his 'wild and crazy guy’ persona with Dan Ackroyd at his side. In the early days as a hard touring stand up comedian (“I don’t believe in reincarnation because I don’t want to come back as the thirteenth child of a Bangladesh peasant farmer”). And very regularly as a film actor in movies like LA Story (1999), Roxanne (1987), The Jerk (1979), All Of Me (1984) and Bowfinger (1999), one of the best if not most underrated satires on Martin’s comfort zone, contemporary LA life and Hollywood. But as with the greats, Martin has a seriously developed serious side. It was first seriously introduced to us when he starred as the utterly charming, fast-talking con man in David Mamet’s superb scam film The Spanish Prisoner (1997). His latest film Shopgirl is another example of Martin’s capacity for the dramatic, as both a screenwriter and performer. Based on his 2000 novella of the same name, it is a deeply personal and touching tale about loneliness, love and emotional survival in a big city. It is another 'LA story’, only this time we laugh because if we didn’t we’d cry instead. Claire Danes (Igby Goes Down, Terminator 3) stars as Mirabelle, a young woman who journeys from rural America to the glittering urban lights of LA with dreams of finding love and fulfilment.But it’s a long time coming. Mirabelle languishes in a job that couldn’t be more superficial, selling gloves to rich women at department store Saks 5th Avenue. On the outside she is perfectly groomed and pristine, but on the inside she’s dying. She’s bored, she’s lonely, and she just wants to be loved.As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Mirabelle meets two men in quick succession: Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman) and Ray (Steve Martin). Jeremy is an artist who speaks before he thinks, and Schwartzman – blitzing in the role – pushes Jeremy to new heights in on-screen slackerdom. Jeremy is the Everest of slack. Attractive, cool, and the world’s worst option in boyfriend. Ray on the other hand is his antithesis. Rich, worldly and apparently totally confident about what he wants from life, he seems to be the Mirabelle’s prayers. They achieve real intimacy, enjoy each other and get along famously. Only she thinks it’s love and he thinks its sex.On paper Shopgirl might sound like a movie version of Men Are From Mars Women Are from Venus but that would be selling this beautiful little movie short. It has depth, and in spades. Shopgirl is a superbly observed, quietly drawn film that draws private moments out onto the open. These characters could be any one of us. Martin’s screenplay brings a certain grace to bear on these characters, aching to find what they are missing from life, themselves and each other. It is a film about the spaces in between people, yearning for connection and having to search hard for it even if the going gets tough.That’s not to say that Shopgirl is without humour. It is filled with as many gently funny moments as it is moving ones, especially when Schwartzman is allowed to let rip. Danes is brilliant as Mirabelle. She needs no words to convey what she’s thinking and couldn’t have been better cast for the role. Martin too gives a spot-on, restrained performance, matching Bill Murray’s in the similarly-themed Lost In Translation. (Comparisons between these two movies will be inevitable). Props must also go to director Arnand Tucker (Hilary & Jackie), who perfectly retains the essence of Martin’s delicately balanced love story for the screen.The great thing about Shopgirl is that it shows that a love story can be made in Hollywood about a younger woman and an older man that doesn’t make one’s flesh crawl. As Martin might have as the relentlessly upbeat movie producer in Bowfinger, “It’s all good baby. This script is butta”.