It's only appropriate to start off my review of Confessions of a Shopaholic with a few confessions of my own: I hate to shop, I couldn't care less about fashion or designer clothes, and I've never read any of Sophie Kinsella's best-selling Shopaholic books. All that being said, I still appreciate the occasional lighthearted rom-com and had high hopes for this one as it stars Isla Fisher, whom I absolutely adored as Wedding Crashers' "stage five clinger." Her Shopaholic character, journalist (in the loosest sense of the term) Rebecca Bloomwood, is only slightly less neurotic than the woman last seen driving off into the sunset with Vince Vaughn. Instead of going ga-ga over men, however, Rebecca's obsessed — and I do mean obsessed — with buying the latest and greatest shoes, dresses, bags and accessories that call to her from high-end department store windows. That's all fine and dandy (well, not really, but I'll save my preaching for later), until her job suddenly vaporizes and she has no way to pay off thousands of dollars in credit card bills… and aggressive debt collectors start breathing down her neck.
So she sets her sights on her dream job at the glamorous Alette magazine, where everything revolves around fashion and all employees look like runway models. Unfortunately they're not hiring at the moment, but Rebecca learns that if she gets her foot in the door at one of the other magazines owned by Alette's parent company, she'll have a much easier time reaching her ultimate goal. Through a comedy of errors, Rebecca does in fact land a gig at sister publication Successful Savings (oh, the irony), where she is almost immediately hailed as the savior of the company after she writes one (one!) article comparing a fake cashmere sweater to high-APR credit cards. And that's where things start getting really unbelievable.
See, the problem I had with Confessions of a Shopaholic is that it was too shallow and fluffy, and at no point was it ever truly funny or engaging. Which is a shame, since two scorchingly hot summer nights ago when I popped in this DVD, I wanted nothing more than to giggle, ooh and ahh along with what had the potential to be the ultimate chick flick. I knew there'd be abhorrently irresponsible purchases and a handsome boss (Hugh Dancy) with an accent who get romantically involved with his employees and a somewhat ditzy heroine (with a heart of gold!) and her slightly smarter friend (Krysten Ritter) who tries to put her on the right path while everyone's surrounded by bold jackets and dangly earrings and skyscraper heels and eye-catching scarves. That would've all been OK — there is a huge part of my heart from which I dole out love for fun, don't-make-me-think-too-hard, who-cares-if-I-forget-this-in-a-day movies. But everything fell apart for me when Rebecca — the protagonist who we're supposed to be rooting for and sympathizing with — started behaving outright stupidly. Who shows up late for a team meeting where she knows no one and decides to bring along an electric pencil sharpener so that she can start loudly sharpening away while her boss is speaking? Who completely ignores a deadline (on her first day at work) in order to stand in line for hours at a sample sale? What grown woman gets mistaken for a waitress at a black-tie ball and gets so flustered that she just plays along?
It would've been one thing if Rebecca was simply a shopaholic. The following plot is all anyone was really expecting from this movie anyway, right? Girl likes clothes, girl buys too many clothes, girl realizes the error of her ways, girl learns to control herself… and wins over cute boy in the process, while still looking fabulous. But it's hard to enjoy that kind of story when the girl in question seems not only more than a bit selfish and clueless, but also in no way remorseful about the dire situation she's gotten herself into.
Since I've never read any of the Shopaholic books, I'm not sure whether they portray Rebecca in the same (unlikable) way. I do know that this movie combined the action of the first two novels in the series and also switched the setting from England to the U.S., so perhaps something was lost in translation. Regardless, I don't hold any of the cast members responsible for my lack of enjoyment of this movie — if lesser actors were involved it might've been downright unbearable. Instead I chalk my unenthusiastic reaction to Confessions of a Shopaholic up to the fact that it was impossible to lose myself in the story of a flighty, debt-laden fashionista when all I wanted to do was shake some sense into her… after raiding her closet, of course.
James' take on the theatrical run of this film was even less forgiving! Check it out here.