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Movie Review: P.J. Hogan's Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)

I have been a longtime fan of the Sophie Kinsella Shopaholic books, which feature the lovable but compulsive Becky Bloomwood. So I wasn't sure what to expect out of the movie version.

Rebecca Bloomwood is a lovely redheaded young woman who loooooves to shop. I am not talking about the reasonable kind of love where she goes monthly or even weekly to see what's new at her local boutique. I am talking about an addiction as powerful as any drug out there. When she walks past a store, the mannequins talk to her and convince her that this, only this, particular item has the power to make her feel better, more attractive, more alive. She shops using 12 credit cards, including her Gold Card, which is encased in a block of ice in the freezer in case of emergencies. The tone of the film is comic, so it's not a tragic type of addiction, but we understand that Becky has a problem and she needs some serious help.

Rebecca also has her own personal bill collector stalker type person following her around named Derek Smeath. All told, she owes Mr. Smeath some $16,000. After losing her job as a journalist, she decides to apply for her dream job: fashion correspondent for Alette magazine. For Becky, this would be equivalent to an alcoholic working in a brewery. The job gets filled before she can arrive, but a sister magazine from the same magazine group, Successful Saving, is hiring. The man at the front desk assures her that the magazine group is a family, and once you're in, you're in. The only problem is that the magazine that ends up hiring Becky is a financial advice magazine. Not exactly the type of place that suits Becky's lifestyle or assets.

Becky's boss is Luke Brandon, a handsome, wealthy man with lots of energy and a black sheep complex. He never feels he can please his parents and leads a life of stress. He's amused by Becky's antics and impressed by her candor. Becky's writing for the financial magazine is a surprise hit. She writes about financial restraint in such a way that the average layperson can relate, comparing it to shoes. It seems like everything's going swell with her new job and a surprise romance with Luke. Derek Smeath can't get a leg in since she's convinced her colleagues that he's an ex-boyfriend stalking her. But like any liar knows, Becky can't keep the truth from her friends and family for long.

I enjoyed this movie. It was fun and sincere. We like Becky because she is flawed. She doesn't have it all together, but her style and spirit charm everyone around her. Sure she's addicted to shopping, but we don't despise her for it. Instead, we relate, because what woman hasn't given in to the siren song of a signature scarf now and again. The pull of a good bargain is a powerful thing, and this film is bound to be a hit with the average female.

The acting is suitable for the film. Nothing revolutionary comes out of it, but Isla Fisher will likely be back in many a comic role. The pacing of the film keeps you involved, but there are enough heartfelt moments to keep us focused.

Some have said that the timing for this film couldn't be worse. With the world in an economic downturn, do we really want to smile and nod at Becky's need to buy, buy, buy? Well, I say this film is healing balm. The nation will recover from this mini-depression, but in the meantime, it's kind of nice to voyeuristically enjoy Becky's indulgences. I have had to natch my weekly Starbucks and batten down my bank account hatches, so I need a little reward, even if it's done through Becky's pocketbook. Also, anyone who watches the film will realize that Becky goes through her own hard time, and she finds a way to get through it. She comes up with her own entrepreneurial scheme to pay off her debt. This is what we all need to do during the difficult times. Find a way to get through. Becky is my hero.


Anonymous said…
The movie was quite hilarious.But the ending is not so interesting...You may take your kids to watch this movie together.My average rating would be 6/10.
Charles Linden said…
If you're feeling unusually generous, extend a little sympathy for the makers of "Confessions of a Shopaholic." When P.J. Hogan's out-of-step comedy was conceived, conspicuous consumption was the norm. Yet here we are, only nine months after the "Sex and the City" movie, and an obsessive spender with an overstuffed closet -and credit card bills to match- no longer seems quite so cute. Though the movie is based on Sophie Kinsella's bestselling novels, Hogan's heroine, Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher), is more obviously modeled after Bridget Jones and "Legally Blonde's" Elle. Both of those characters, however, had an intelligence that balanced their flakier moments. Rebecca claims to be interested in fashion, but all we see is her manic need to own everything in sight. She doesn't seem to be picky; if it's on a mannequin, she wants it. And her ditzy entitlement makes her adventures -stumbling onto a job as a financial columnist, falling in love with her gorgeous boss (Hugh Dancy) -less appealing than confusing. No one would hire this self-absorbed airhead, let alone romance her. Still, the movie is meant as thoughtless escapism, and to that end, you may find it gets the job done. Most important, with Patricia Field serving as costume designer, the clothes are pretty fabulous. (She even managed to find a bridesmaid's dress I wish I owned.) Fisher is so misdirected, it's hard to appreciate her natural comic talents amid all the overacting. But there are some mildly amusing turns from costars like Kristin Scott Thomas, playing an icy editor, and Robert Stanton, as her frustrated debt collector. So if you're trying to stay out of stores yourself, "Confessions" provides a relatively safe version of window shopping. But bear in mind the lesson Rebecca eventually learns: there's a difference between cost and worth. When every dollar counts, do you want to spend twelve bucks on a movie that's not really worth it?