Confessions of a Shopaholic, adapted from the series by Sophie Kinsella, is the latest chick lit bestseller to find its way to the silver screen. Taking its place alongside The Devil Wears Prada and The Sex and the City Movie, audiences are reminded, once again, that a modern woman can wrangle her way out of even the most complicated quagmire, given she's wearing a pair of Gucci pumps and carrying a Louis Vuitton handbag. Like its predecessors, Confessions circumvents an assessment of its main characters' values and the society where their fates are played out. Despite the subject matter's potential to be a dagger-edged indictment of consumerist culture (especially that of American females), the film shies away from controversy; it prefers light and airy comedic misadventures to hard knuckled satire.
The film centers around Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher), the maniacal spendthrift whose impoverished financial sense creates the central conflict. Traumatized by a childhood where her mother forced her to wear dowdy secondhand rags, our heroine vows that when she grows she will clothe herself exclusively in "glittery" designer duds. Sure enough, upon reaching adulthood, she acquires several credit cards and proceeds to max out each and everyone, splurging on choice apparel from the chicest New York boutiques (though frankly, her wardrobe looks more Fashion Barbie than haute couture.) At last, over a bottle of tequila, Rebecca acknowledges she has accumulated just shy of $10,000 in debt.
For the remainder of the film, Rebecca finds inventive ways to avoid a zealous debt collector whose single-minded desire to extract payment mirrors Rebbeca's single- minded desire for clothing. Also, she attempts to worm her way into a job with a high fashion magazine called Alette by taking a writing position with a financial magazine owned by the same parent company. Against all odds, Rebecca is an accidental success; her articles, ironically about debt prevention, bring the magazine unprecedented popularity!
Of course this is preposterous, as is Miss Bloomwood's romance with her boss, Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy). Though he was born into elite New York society, he abhors ostentation and seeks to free himself from the materialistic lifestyle of his youth. Nevertheless, the audience is supposed to accept that he falls in love with a woman whose sacred cows are high society glitterati and Bloomingdales.
The only reason to see this movie is Isla Fisher, perhaps best known for her role as the sex-crazed bridesmaid in 2005's Wedding Crashers. She demonstrates her formidable comedic abilities in her portrayal of Rebecca Bloomwood, delivering lines with deft timing and using her physicality to full laugh-inducing effect. Only because of her natural charm does one not loathe the greedy, vapid and self-indulgent Rebecca. Sadly, there is little chemistry between her and Dancy, making their characters' romantic pairing even less plausible. Despite his dashing looks and sincere countenance, Dancy comes across as a soppy milk toast; not exactly leading man material. The other talent (Joan Cusack, John Goodman, Kristin Scott Thomas) are sorely underused -- their roles are little more than cameos.
While most of the film is a fun and silly celebration of consumerism, an ill-advised dose of moralization is crammed into its final moments. In voice over narration, Rebecca shares her newfound wisdom: love and honesty are more important than a fabulous wardrobe. As a result of this earth shattering epiphany, she has been cured of her shopping addiction. But here's the thing: she doesn't stop her spending sprees because she realized the value of love and honesty; it took excruciating public humiliation (her debt is exposed on national television) to cure her of her addiction. Her abstinence appears to be more a Pavlovian response than a moral choice; she will probably return to her old behaviors as soon as she can safely get away with it. In the end, this film doesn't really find anything wrong with defining meaning through possessions or with loving clothes more than human beings. If this message doesn't rub you the wrong way, the film is adequately entertaining, though it has as much substance as a Hermès chiffon scarf.