How do I not love Confessions of a Shopaholic? Let me count the ways--a Film Doctor review

1) First there's the romantic comedy-homogenization of Isla Fisher. As Rebecca Bloomwood, Manhattan journalist and shopaholic, Isla is perky, quirky, ditsy, and lively in the tradition of Katherine Hepburn's character in Bringing Up Baby. Rebecca may spill food all over a bunch of dinner guests. She may run into a glass wall, and she may blithely pile up mountains of debt (funny!), but one just can't help falling for such an unorthodox bundle of joy. Unfortunately, though, she was far more memorable as Vince Vaughn's psycho-girlfriend in Wedding Crashers than she is here, in part because the former role gave her more of an edge.

2) As the male lead, Luke Brandon, editor of Successful Savings, a financial magazine, the perpetually stubbled Hugh Dancy comes off as a watered down version of Orlando Bloom, and Bloom is already watered down enough already.

3) Confessions of a Shopaholic leaves one feeling sorry for actors in supporting roles. For instance, we just saw John Goodman play the avuncular daddy in Speed Racer. As much as I applaud his work in the Coen brothers' films, he's losing his hipster cred here. At one point, he attempts to break dance as his wife, played by poor Joan Cusack, drags his large carcass around the floor. Ha, ha.

4) To adapt a phrase from Senator Lloyd Bentsen, "I knew The Devil Wears Prada. The Devil Wears Prada was a friend of mine. Confessions of a Shopaholic, you are no The Devil Wears Prada." Rebecca has ambitions of writing for Alette (read Vogue) magazine which has a high-powered editor, Alette Naylor, played by Kristin Scott Thomas with a French accent. Yet, while Meryl Streep raises that otherwise light confection into film glory (and profit) with her unforgettable soft-voiced evocation of editorial power, Thomas simply made me feel sad. How far her star power has fallen since The English Patient.

5) Shopaholic has the most grating soundtrack. With songs like "Accessory" by Jordyn Taylor and "Bad Girl" by the Pussycat Dolls, the film scarcely has a mood swing before some LOUD female singer starts to articulate the emotion in some drippy generic song. I kept thinking the music lyrics were part of the dialogue.

6) As the film goes on, Rebecca Bloomwood develops an imaginary relationship with department store mannequins. One sells her a diaphanous green scarf that later becomes very important once she becomes a publishing sensation as "The Girl in the Green Scarf." Other mannequins wink and try to lure her into stores. Eventually, a bunch of mannequins give her a standing ovation. All of this forced whimsy was just . . . ick.

7) Even though Rebecca works as a journalist in more than one job, the film never acknowledges the dire straits of publishing circles these days. Nor does the film ever really grapple with the darker implications of debt. At one point, John Goodman makes a comment about the US government getting into billions of dollars of debt. I wonder if they recently added on that scene. Of course, movies supply escape in times of trouble, but Confessions of a Shopaholic touches on so many cultural concerns (shopping addiction, clutter issues, extreme consumer debt, the meltdown of the print media) without really dealing with any of them. Rebecca is just too perky and the genre of the film is too rigidly formulaic for any of these things to matter at all.


Joel Bocko said…
Thank, filmdr, for the GreenCine link. From the first couple paragraphs it looks very interesting, and though I don't think I can read the whole thing now I've bookmarked it.

But Jesus, are we already calling this thing a depression. Couldn't we give it a year and cross our fingers?
It's probably too early to call the current economic downturn a depression, but I do like Rizov's points about how hard it is for the movie industry to reflect current conditions when most films take at least a year and a half to produce, and given the industry's devotion to a narrow range of gendered genres. Confessions of a Shopaholic does seem instantly dated as a result, and the film's weak screenplay does not help matters any.
Anonymous said…
My word, this film does sound like it's trying too hard to connect. Good elucidation of your dislikes; I always love seeing where you believe the flaws lie, dear Doctor.

Additionally, your poetic adaptation for the post's title was entertaining as well.
Thanks, Skye. It turns out that the director, P.J. Hogan, also directed Muriel's Wedding, and My Best Friend's Wedding. I wonder what happened to him in the meantime.
Thanks, Susan (or is it Jennifer?). It is my pleasure.

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