Confessions of a Shopaholic: Two-Disc Special Edition
June 23, 2009
With Muriel’s Wedding (1994), Australian filmmaker P.J. Hogan injected fresh, new life into the romantic comedy and all to the beat of a memorable soundtrack dominated by Abba songs. He gave the film an edgy quality with a shocking plot twist partway through the story that changes the lives of the protagonist and her best friend. Hogan proved to be equally adept at working within the confines of Hollywood with his next film My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), a romantic comedy starring Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz. It not only played with our expectations of the genre but also provided Rupert Everett with a breakout role.
Hogan parlayed that film’s success with a lavish take on Peter Pan (2003) that was not the massive blockbuster success the studio had hoped for and the filmmaker has since struggled to get back on track, making a film called Unconditional Love (2002) that went direct-to-video here in North America. He seemed primed to make a comeback with his latest, Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009), an adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name. It stars Isla Fisher, an up-and-coming actress with a lot of media buzz around her, and who was being groomed by the studio hype machine to follow in the footsteps of Meg Ryan, Roberts and Diaz as the next America’s cinematic sweetheart. However, Confessions of a Shopaholic was released during the highly publicized collapse of the world economy and suddenly, a film about a materialistic young woman who maxes out her credit cards, didn’t seem so funny anymore. Hogan’s film was not the massive commercial success that the studio had hoped for.
Since she was a child, Rebecca Bloomwood (Fisher) has been obsessed with expensive clothes – both wearing and purchasing them. She grows up to become a compulsive shopper unable to resist the lure of fancy items in a shop window or having visions of a store mannequin coming to life only to convince her to buy a scarf that she doesn’t really need. Becky dreams of writing for a high-fashion New York City magazine but faced with a mounting debt of $16,000 and having been recently fired from her job at a gardening periodical, she scrambles to find another writing gig. Becky settles for a personal finance column at a sister publication where she finds herself increasing drawn to her boss Luke Brandon (Dancy). She writes a column called “The Girl in the Green Scarf” and it quickly becomes a surprise hit.
Isla Fisher has little to work with and, at times, it is painful to watch her gamely spout unfunny dialogue and engage in silly displays of physical comedy. We are not laughing with her character but rather laughing at her, much as was the case with Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004). Fisher is clearly better than this material as she proved in other films like Hot Rod (2007) and The Lookout (2007). Hugh Dancy fairs a little better with the film’s hackneyed dialogue. Maybe it’s because of his British accent but he actually makes listening to it semi-tolerable. Dancy has a bit of a nervous Hugh Grant thing going on and his character is infinitely more interesting than Becky, which is not a good thing. Dancy and Fisher have nice chemistry together but it is rather baffling as to why his character would be even remotely attracted to hers. He’s a workaholic and she’s not so I guess opposites attract but in this case I didn’t buy it.
Confessions of a Shopaholic does not get off to a good start when early on the humour feels forced, like in Becky’s disastrous job interview and her attempt to dodge a debt collector on the phone. This film obviously wants to be the next The Devil Wears Prada (2006) but its screenplay lets its cast time and time again. Becky is a superficial clothes horse and she doesn’t seem remotely smart enough to work at a finance magazine… or any magazine for that matter. In this day and age, where we are in the depths of a terrible economic recession, making light of massive credit card debt and a protagonist obsessed with expensive clothes comes across as rather offensive. Based on the talent involved, Confessions of a Shopaholic is a huge disappointment and one would be better off watching The Devil Wears Prada or Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) instead.
There are four deleted scenes that include Becky daydreaming about the popularity of her column, another where she works at a clothing store with disastrous results, and a scene that shows Luke and Becky getting closer.
“Bloopers of a Shopaholic” is a collection of flubs and blown lines that is actually funnier than most of the film.
Finally, there is a music video for “Stuck with Each Other” by Shontelle featuring Akon. It is a typical movie tie-in video that features lots of clips from Confessions of a Shopaholic with Shontelle in a clothing store like a scene out of the film