At the Movies With Kevin: Confessions of A Shopaholic

This is a difficult film to review because it is nearly impossible for me to relate to Rebecca Bloomwood in any discernable way. I realize it is my responsibility to try, but I kept being unable to understand what pervaded her obsession to possess a lavish lifestyle. It might be partially my fault, but most of the responsibility lies with the film for treating Rebecca’s disease like a cute gimmick rather than an addiction that deeply harms.

Rebecca (Isla Fisher) owes over $9,000 to a debt collector because of her insidious shopping habit. She has a plan to continue her irresponsible shopping spree while paying the money owed by landing a job at Alette fashion magazine. The fact that she is not a particularly gifted or committed writer seems to be secondary in her thinking because, apparently, she lives in a fantasy world where no significant prior experience is required.

The film seems to argue that it is permissible for her to be a shopaholic because she has wonderful taste and fashion, even though this is obviously not the case. Being a shopaholic is an addiction, and wanting to become a fashion writer makes this no more acceptable than the woman who recently had eight children she could not afford simply because she wanted to be a mother. This kind of irresponsibility cannot be tolerated, let alone encouraged, in our society and because “Confessions of a Shopaholic” does not take this disease seriously, it misses out on a prime opportunity to make a real statement about this issue.

After Rebecca discovers that her Alette interview has been cancelled following the filling of the position, she decides it would be advisable to apply for a job at a financial magazine owned by the same company in order to get her foot in the door. The irony is palpable because Rebecca advising people about their finances would be like Christian Bale talking to the masses about anger management. Although her interview is a disaster, Rebecca is given a position by the magazine editor, Luke (Hugh Dancy), after a misunderstanding in the application process.

Although she knows nothing about finances, Rebecca’s columns develop a following and are considered masterpieces by the readership even though she is a mediocre journalist. This is a fantasy world because people never react to great writing like this, but maybe the film was not striving for believability since there are mannequins that attempt to coerce Rebecca into buying their attire. The question then is why set the movie in the real world if there is no truth behind any of the characters actions.

Isla Fisher is an immensely attractive and likable actress, but her character here is a glorified snob with no believable reason given for coveting the clothes she buys. She is selfish, hurtful, and feels entitled to occupations that do not follow with her expertise. It became hard to feel sympathy for her because of her many faults with seemingly no self-awareness or apologies for her many unfortunate actions. She is a self-induced snob and the film continuously treats her like a fallen saint.

Hugh Dancy’s character is the most appealing and believable, but his actions at the end of the film seem odd and incongruent with the remainder of his persona. Kristen Scott Thomas plays Alette as a woman whose faulty accent is the only thing more annoying than her personality. John Goodman and Joan Cusack are given interesting roles as her parents, but they sometimes offer defective solutions to their daughter’s problems. All of the actors are serviceable and tirelessly attempt to make the film more than just a glorification of snobby attitudes and actions.

This also seems like the wrong time to have a film that encourages reckless spending with the current financial crisis occurring. Currently, people are worried about losing their homes, while Rebecca is concerned about having to relinquish her Gucci boots, making her plight seem shallow and unwarranted.

“Confessions of a Shopaholic” also suffers from extreme predictability, making it extremely boring as all the loose ends are tied together, including the inevitable confrontation with the debt collector that simply promotes Rebecca’s pettiness that is clouding her judgment, making it impossible for her to take responsibility for her actions.

The ending is inexplicable, effectively implying that she can have her cake and eat it too. No one would dare tell an alcoholic that it is acceptable to drink only once per day, and it should not be any different for Rebecca. Along these lines, the worst shortcoming of “Confessions of a Shopaholic” is not giving Rebecca a coherent reason for her obsession.

I am sure there are people who fit Rebecca’s description, but that does not mean they live this sunny and carefree. Even if this is an accurate examination of such a person, that does not mean I would want to spend two minutes with them, let alone two hours. I suppose the filmmakers are at least focused in knowing what the story is about and not apologizing for it, which is a compliment. Maybe they should have apologized for making the movie in the first place.

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