Directed by: P.J. Hogan
Premise: An adaptation of Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic novels. Isla Fisher plays a fledgling journalist with an impulsive shopping problem and thousands of dollars of credit card debt. After taking on a columnist position at a financial newspaper, she struggles to grasp her problem while a romance buds between her and the magazine’s editor (Hugh Dancy).
What Works: Isla Fisher is a very funny actress and she is very skilled at being awkward but sweet. In her best moments in this film, Fisher hints at the deeper reasons for the character’s addiction to shopping and the self-loathing that comes afterward. The story follows an addiction plotline, as she attempts to get a grip on her impulsion while constantly being foiled by temptation. By combining the junkie plot with shopping, Confessions of a Shopaholic is able to bring some new twists onto this familiar story structure. The tone of the film is geared toward teenage girls and its sense of fashion and romance make it a PG-13 version of Sex and the City.
What Doesn’t: The story of Confessions of a Shopaholic plateaus halfway though the film. The addiction and love plotlines are done so predictably that the film needs something else to jump start it and keep the story fresh and amusing, but the film never does that. Unlike The Devil Wears Prada, a similarly themed film, Confessions of a Shopaholic never gets beneath the surface of its characters or of the capitalist rattrap that the protagonist finds herself in. This is a shame because the picture sets up a theme early on, comparing the culture of blind consumption and debt with the financial misdeeds of Wall Street. The theme is abandoned by the end of the first act as the film opts for a more conventional love story. This is immensely disappointing since the film could have found itself so relevant and even empowering if it had followed the instincts and themes of the opening. The film gets worse as it goes on and even a bit misogynistic as it portrays women as shallow creatures who will fist fight over a handbag. The ending is most troubling as the heroine learns to let go of her possessions by exploiting other women with the same impulsive shopping problem.
Bottom Line: Confessions of a Shopaholic may appeal to high school age girls but that’s about it. The film wastes its premise and delivers a very by-the-numbers story that is not a total bust nor is it very extraordinary.
Episode: #229 (March 1, 2009)