Rated 4.0

A department store sales clerk (Claire Danes) has a brief, unsatisfying fling with a goof-off neighbor (Jason Schwartzman), then segues into a more serious but equally unsatisfying affair with a wealthy older man (Steve Martin, who wrote both the screenplay and the novella on which it’s based). The movie gets off to a bit of a clumsy start, with an overdone first-date-from-hell sequence that plays like second-hand Hollywood. But writer Martin and director Anand Tucker quickly settle down into the poignant insights that distinguished the book, with expert performances showing us the inner thoughts that a script inevitably must leave out. Danes especially, with her open-eyed, break-your-heart simplicity, shines; they don’t give Oscars for performances like this, but other actors admire and study them.