Don't just take Megan's word: In Confessions of a Shopaholic, Isla Fisher proves she's destined to be one of the next great comediennes by making one of the most poorly timed movies in history endurable.
Confessions of a Shopaholic, which opens today, is based on a pair of popular novels by British author Madeleine Wickham, which follow the adventures of compulsive shopper Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher). After being downsized, Rebecca makes a shopping pit stop and fails to show up for an interview at her favorite fashion magazine. Somehow, she winds up getting a job at the personal finance magazine Successful Savings. She creates a hit column even though she knows nothing about finance, winning praise from her coincidentally rich and handsome editor, Luke (Hugh Dancy).
The movie was filmed before the economy got so bad that Suze Orman was forced to appear on Oprah every few weeks to admonish Americans to break their shopping addiction. Now, a film celebrating irresponsible credit card use may seem distasteful, but some critics say it's the only thing that saves Confessions of a Shopaholic from passing into romantic comedy obscurity. Not that the film really teaches any lessons about paying off your debt. Rebecca overcomes her financial problems by lying and cheating rather than realizing there's something wrong with her designer clothing obsession. However, some critics feel that the outfits costume designer Patricia Field picked for Rebecca are so hideous that they are a lesson in and of themselves that overpriced designer fashions bring neither happiness or beauty. Below, the critics weigh in on whether Confessions of a Shopaholic is worth the price of a movie ticket.
Perhaps, then, it's a good thing [shopaholics] have been commemorated in Confessions of a Shopaholic, a movie adaptation of Sophie Kinsella's series of novels about a shopping-obsessed, debt-ridden young English journalist named Becky Bloomwood (Isla Fisher). As a romantic comedy, it is forgettable. But as an ill-timed anthropological artifact, Confessions offers weird pleasures, not least among them the fact that it makes us root for the debt collector.
Confessions of a Shopaholic is like a sale item that catches your eye simply because of its garish color, atrocious style and startling uselessness. Not only is it an unfunny movie shrilly told, it probably is the most ill-timed and appallingly insulting movie in recent memory.
[Isla Fisher's] charms are enough to keep the movie - entering the marketplace just as the country's financial situation becomes truly dire - from being criminally distasteful. She's got that rare gift for making slapstick seem organic. Confessions runs her through the chick-flick moves of endearment (walk into glass, run in high heels, spill food on self and others), but there are a few scenes where she cuts loose and we get to see her Lucille Ball–style warmth and wackiness ...
The movie's other saving grace is that Becky has absolutely hideous taste. Whether this is intentional, only costume designer Patricia Field knows for sure. What Carrie Bradshaw might have pulled off, Becky sinks under. Colors, plaids, accessories, boots - it's all garish; she doesn't wear or carry a single appealing object for the length of the movie. This is oddly comforting. We're officially 14 months into this recession, and many of us are not just tightening belts but swearing off shopping altogether. Confessions, perhaps inadvertently, assures us that being deprived of Gucci boots can be a good thing.
Like her many recent precursors - roles played by the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Renee Zellweger and Drew Barrymore - Rebecca is just too cute to be defeated. Ultimately, she'll walk defiantly past boutiques, and the display-window mannequins will applaud her resolve. Audiences may not join in the ovation. Inside Confessions of a Shopaholic,'s narrative bubble, Rebecca appears blithe and charming. Whenever reality intrudes, however, she looks more like a self-serving Wall Street CEO, squirming at a congressional hearing.
[Rebecca Bloomwood] is a role you would imagine might be filled, with cheesy-klutzy charm, by Kate Hudson or Sandra Bullock. But Fisher has her own brain-working-a-mile- a-minute adorable magnetism, with eyes that widen like a naughty child's and a smile so vivacious it could light up the next three rooms. Breathless and petite yet powerfully in-your-face, Fisher combines dizzy femininity and no-nonsense verve in the manner of a classic screwball heroine. She's like Carole Lombard reborn as a tiny angel-faced dynamo.
We critics have to decide how worshipful we should be toward this flaunting of high fashion while pretending to ridicule it. It's the old Hollywood game of having all your luxury goods, and pretending that they don't bring happiness without true love. That sacred duty is assigned to Hugh Dancy's Luke Brandon, a Brit workaholic magazine editor who is taught to relax in a warmer climate by the irrepressible shopaholic herself. If I understand our president correctly, workaholics are more needed now than shopaholics. But let's be fair. Not too long ago, it was the duty of American consumers to shop until they dropped, and no one warned them of the dire consequences to follow their splurges of extravagance.
It's all quite silly, and easy, and Confessions of a Shopaholic would never be called out by the rom-com umpire for not touching every base on its way toward home plate. The romance between Luke and Rebecca is a glacial-but-inevitable development, and Rebecca's relationship with her friend Suze (the wonderful Krysten Ritter) is full of inebriation and inadvertent rockiness.
Although Shopaholic is targeted at women, it also seems to have a remarkable contempt for its female characters — most of whom appear to have the maturity and smarts of a petulant 8-year-old. When Bloomwood pretends that a debt collector is a stawkerish ex-boyfriend, a nearby secretary inexplicably chimes in: "I was once stalked ... by a dog." Bloomwood's roommate (Krysten Ritter) giggles and flounces around their technicolor apartment, and the women Bloomwood encounters at sample sales scream and claw at each other like feral cats.
Lucky for the movie that Isla Fisher is so likable, because Rebecca Bloomwood is a real dud of a human being: a vain, shallow, materialistic twit who abuses the trust of both her endlessly forgiving boss and her enabling roommate, Suze (Krysten Ritter). The character's moral trajectory over the course of the film makes no sense: She's rewarded over and over for poor performance, and when her comeuppance does arrive, it's so brief and easily overcome that the message seems to be: When in dire financial and personal distress, charge one last cute outfit on your credit card and lie like crazy.