Confessions of a Shopaholic is fashionably late to the party with its overarching theme of responsible spending. It would have been a good lesson learned by consumers if this film had come out a few years ago. On the other hand, debt is on everyone’s minds at the moment, so for this film to appear on the scene now is almost perfect timing. Confessions of a Shopaholic doesn’t provide much in the way of an answer to the global financial crisis, but it does offer hope on a personal economic level. If you look closely, you’ll also find a little bit of romance peppering this genuinely funny movie.
Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) is the main character in the popular Shopaholic series penned by Sophie Kinsella. Rebecca also has an addiction to shopping, which may seem like par for the course for many women who seem to have a killer outfit for every occasion and shoes to match, but Rebecca’s addiction goes way beyond that. She is so lost in rabid consumerism that she puts shopping before her love life. When Rebecca walks by a store, the mannequins will come to life and model for her, if only in her own mind. While this designer clothes problem often surprises her with $900 credit card bills, it’s also made Rebecca a bit of a fashion aficionado, which is the foundation for her dream of becoming a writer for the fashion magazine Alette. When the position she was vying for is taken by the beautiful, but cruel Alicia (Leslie Bibb), Rebecca ironically takes a staff writer position with a financial magazine under the same company umbrella until she can find another opening. Unfortunately, she has to hide her looming $16,000 of credit card debt from her cute, workaholic boss Luke (Hugh Dancy) to maintain her credibility as a financial advisor.
Without a doubt, this is a dense movie. In less capable hands, it could have easily gone off track. Thankfully, solid performances from the cast, strong writing and thoughtful direction keep this film engaging and perfectly paced.
The cast is very well put together and everyone milks every last ounce out of their screen time. Each actor manages to be memorable, including the day players. It helps when almost the entire cast is made up of veteran Hollywood actors like Joan Cusack, John Goodman and Kristin Scott Thomas. Krysten Ritter’s performance as best friend Suze is particularly enjoyable in its genuineness. Everyone involved in the creation of debt collector Derek Smeath (Robert Stanton) also deserves special praise for everything ranging from his antiquated 50’s look to the drab color palette of his office and his coworkers’ attire. While he is technically the villain in the film and therefore must adhere to certain rules, Stanton wisely keeps his performance on the fresh side of cliché.
Of course, it’s Isla Fisher who carries the film. Her bubbly, ever-hopeful, yet tragically flawed character is a sheer delight to watch. Everyone who has ever owned a credit card will instantly identify with her Rebecca Bloomwood. There’s something that rings frighteningly true when she tries to spread a purchase across several credit cards and has trouble keeping track of the excuses she gives respective collection agencies. Thankfully, it’s Rebecca’s lighthearted side that audiences will remember most due to Fisher’s outstanding comedic instincts. She can make tried and true comedic gags, like retrieving of an incorrectly addressed letter, a hideous dance routine and faking a foreign language seem brand new.
The only two nitpicky criticisms to be had are that the story is a bit accelerated and there isn’t enough romance to really tug at audiences’ emotions. Rebecca writes one piece for the financial magazine and it suddenly vaults the publication into the forefront of the global financial community. Not only is she booked on talk shows, but her column is syndicated around the world on the day it gets published. Her romance with Luke also seems to materialize out of thin air. So when girl loses boy at the end of the second act, it feels more like easy come, easy go rather than an emotional blow to the soul. Yet, the familiar romcom formula works to the film’s advantage in these thin parts, because the audience will recognize the beats and fill in the blanks on their own.
Small criticisms aside, this is a well-made film that delivers a refreshing plot through clever writing and strong performances. Children and teens will probably not appreciate Confessions of a Shopaholic as much as adults. That’s because to appreciate the story is to be crushed under the debt of discretionary spending. Unfortunately – or maybe fortunately – the way things are looking right now, it may be a while before anyone extends lines of credit to young people, preventing them from making their own mistakes.