Movie Review: ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’

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Confessions of a Shopaholic Review

Hugh Dancy and Isla Fisher in ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ (Photo © Touchstone Pictures)

So, barely into 2009 we’ve had our share of women in love, lust, or some other sort of relationship that doesn’t necessarily show the female gender in the most positive light. Bride Wars served up life-long friends who tore each other to pieces after accidentally booking the same wedding date. New in Town found a corporate exec looking down her perky nose at the fine folks of Minnesota before ultimately realizing they are actually people – gasp! And then He’s Just Not That Into You showed how women tend to be helpless and hopeless when it comes to matters of the heart.

That’s a lot of female-driven films to enter theaters just six weeks into 2009. And of course that’s not a bad thing – we women deserve to have Hollywood tune into the fact we will buy tickets to movies if they interest us. But we do deserve better than we’ve been offered thus far this year.

Now, opening over Valentine’s Day weekend, comes Confessions of a Shopaholic. Based on the bestselling books by Sophie Kinsella, Confessions of a Shopaholic is out of touch with the current financial market and the overall state of the economy. I can’t imagine many moviegoers nowadays breaking out in a “You go, girl,” chorus as the film’s lead character spends, spends, spends without thinking of the consequences. There is sort of a ‘credit is bad, don’t spend above your limits’ lesson in Confessions of a Shopaholic – if you turn your head sideways and squint a little. But in many other ways, Confessions of a Shopaholic actually promotes buying pretty, sparkly items because buying new things makes one a happy person.

There’s undeniably a mixed message spouted by this romantic comedy, yet if we are being totally honest with ourselves, not many of us go to the movies (in particular, to a romantic comedy) to learn important life lessons. We go to be entertained, and Confessions of a Shopaholic is entertaining – mostly thanks to the adorable Isla Fisher who could be this generation’s Lucille Ball.

Fisher plays the shopaholic, Rebecca Bloomwood, a vivacious young woman who hears the siren song of mannequins beckoning her to forget all else and succumb to the pleasures of purchasing designer togs. Rebecca goes deeply into debt but she can’t help herself – she needs new dresses and boots and gloves and pants, etc. etc. etc – the problem being she doesn’t have the financial means to support her habit. So, with an ever-rising stack of credit card bills the elephant in the room she’s trying her best to ignore, Rebecca loses her job as a journalist at an outdoor magazine. But never fear – the handsome, serious-minded Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy) hires her (without checking her background) to write an advice column for his fledgling financial magazine which is struggling to establish its own identity.

Of course Rebecca doesn’t want to be working at a financial magazine – her dream job is writing for a high fashion magazine – but she takes Luke up on his job offer, despite the fact she’s just about the worst person on the planet to be doling out advice on how to stay out of debt. Hounded by a debt collector she explains off by claiming he’s an ex-boyfriend stalking her, and knowing all the while she’s ill-equipped to dispense financial advice, Rebecca keeps up the pretense of being this ‘tell it like it is but in simple terms a 12 year old could understand’ guru while longing for a gig writing about fashion. And to complicate Rebecca’s already mixed up life, she falls for her boss who has no idea she’s $16,000 in debt.

The Cast

Fisher’s just fantastic as the shopping addict who hasn’t ever encountered a store she didn’t like. Fisher can handle the physical gags as well as the quieter moments in Confessions of a Shopaholic. When she tackles scenes we’ve witnessed time and again in romantic comedies (running around in high heels, enduring that awkward moment when the guy she likes introduces her to his date, disappointing her best friend by being thoughtless), she makes them seem fresh and unique.

Dancy’s a handsome Brit who has onscreen chemistry with Fisher. He’s not called on to stretch any acting muscles, but he does provide adequate support for Fisher to strut her stuff. Joan Cusack (who is only 13 years older than Fisher) and John Goodman are terrific, though under-used, as Fisher’s loving parents. Krysten Ritter, a talented actress who seems to be relegated to best friend roles, is perfectly cast as Fisher’s – you guessed it – best friend.

The Bottom Line

Yes, Confessions of a Shopaholic‘s release in theaters seems ill-timed due to the current disastrous financial predicament we find ourselves in. And yes, this shopaholic’s wasteful ways would have been better suited for a film released 10 years ago. But Fisher, under the direction of romantic comedy veteran PJ Hogan (Muriel’s Wedding, My Best Friend’s Wedding), makes us connect with this film that’s ultimately about taking responsibility and admitting your faults. But put aside what it’s about, forget trying to interpret the message, and just take Confessions of a Shopaholic for what it is – a goofy, likeable enough chick flick.

GRADE: B

Confessions of a Shopaholic was directed by PJ Hogan and is rated PG for some mild language and thematic elements.

Theatrical Release Date: February 13, 2009, reviewed originally published online on February 12, 2009


-By Rebecca Murray

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