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Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
ImageI would like to blame Confessions of a Shopaholic on the timing.  As we are constantly reminded by various media sources and our own diminishing bank accounts, our economy is in the worst shape it has been in since the Great Depression.  Who, then, wants to see a film about a girl whose sole woe in life is that she just can’t seem to stop herself from buying pretty shiny pink things?  An audience of people worried about holding onto their jobs are supposed to feel bad for a girl whose maxed out credit cards won’t allow her to buy one more pair of Christian Laboutins (super expensive shoes) when she already has a closet filled with them?   Boo hoo.  Their maxed out credit cards won’t allow some of them to pay the electric bill or put food on the table.  The Golden Clintonian Age of Yore would have provided a much more receptive environment to this bit of cinema.  How were the filmmakers to know a year or so ago when they began production that the economy would be a federal disaster area come release date?  Bad luck.   Like I said, however, I would like to blame the timing, but I simply cannot give it that pass.  Be it 1929, 1999 or 2009, Confessions of a Shopaholic is not a good movie. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Sophie Kinsella (that spawned a gaggle of sequels), Confessions tells the tale of Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher), an aspiring young fashion writer with a serious addiction to the acquisition of  high-end women’s apparel.   Passed over for her dream job at top fashion magazine Alette, Rebecca somehow lands a gig writing for Successful Savings, a decidedly non-glamorous member of Alette’s publishing family.  She falls for her boss, Luke (Hugh Dancy who is so impossibly yummy I was tempted to leap into the screen and bite his nose… ok, perhaps just a nibble), and does everything she can to avoid the evil clutches of an overzealous debt collector (Robert Stanton).  

It is ironic, as Rebecca’s best friend and forgiving roommate Suze (Krysten Ritter) so accurately points out, that someone whose own financial situation is in ruins is hired to help other people manage theirs.  I thought there was a satisfying movie to be found in that concept.  There may be, but this, unfortunately, is not it.

The biggest problem with Confessions of a Shopaholic lies in its main character.  Rebecca Bloomwood is impossible to relate to.  Isla Fisher is adorable (although, all in all, if I have to choose a doe-eyed red-headed ingénue, I’ll go with the more soulful Amy Adams every time).  In grand romantic comedy tradition, she is a complete klutz and a charmingly terrible dancer, but the writing does her no favors.   She was given a silly character to portray and nothing, anywhere in the film, to help her rise above the silliness.

Addicts, regardless of what they are addicted to, are generally trying to fill some deep dark hole in their psyche with their over-consumption.  What is the demon driving poor Miss Bloomwood to drown herself in couture debt?  Well, um…as a child…her mother forced her to wear sensible shoes.   The horror.   Rebecca does not appear to suffer from depression.  She has loving parents, a saintly roommate and is working towards making her dreams come true.  Loneliness does not seem to be a problem, either, as she happily informs us that she prefers clothes to men anyway.  Towards the end, when our heroine finally tearfully declares to delicious Luke that she shops because, essentially, it is the only thing that makes her happy, it does not ring true at all.  The film has not earned this moment.  

Even in our recession-addled world, I could sympathize with a character who far outspends her means in an ill-advised attempt to escape her problems and has to find her way back from that.   When the character doesn’t have any problems except that she far outspends her means, I can’t help but wonder why she doesn’t just put the freaking pair of shoes down and walk out of the store.  Director PJ Hogan gives us a fluffy pink world decked out with cute comic bits and outrageous outfits.  This is not enough, however, to fill it.  In the end, we are left with an empty main character in an empty film.   What does a girl have to do these days to get someone to make a good chick flick?

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