Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Movie Review - Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic * ½
Directed By:
PJ Hogan.
Written By: Tracey Jackson and Tim Firth and Kayla Alpert based on the books by Sophie Kinsella.
Starring: Isla Fisher (Rebecca Bloomwood), Hugh Dancy (Luke Brandon), Krysten Ritter (Suze), Joan Cusack (Jane Bloomwood), John Goodman (Graham Bloomwood), John Lithgow (Edgar West), Kristin Scott Thomas (Alette Naylor), Fred Armisen (Ryan Koenig), Leslie Bibb (Alicia Billington), Lynn Redgrave (Drunken Lady at Ball), Robert Stanton (Derek Smeath), Julie Hagerty (Hayley).

Isla Fisher is adorable, and aside from that she is also a gifted comedic actress. I have loved watching her in every movie I have seen her in (Wedding Crashers, Hot Rod, Definitely Maybe and especially the underrated The Lookout) no matter how bad those movies may be. Her new movie, Confessions of a Shopaholic is bad – really bad – but it’s too her credit that she keeps the movie watchable throughout. Not that you would actually want to watch it, but if you do, you’ll probably end up agreeing with me. If it weren’t for Isla Fisher’s delightful presence, Confessions of a Shopaholic would be unbearable.

In the film, Fisher plays Rebecca Bloomwood, a 30ish reporter who seems to have taken all of her life lessons from fashion magazines and the women on Sex and the City. She has run up a huge debt on all of her credit cards, making sure she stays in the latest fashion, no matter what the cost. But now it has all caught up with her, and she has a debt collector on her trail. Through a series of comedic incidents, she ends up landing a job at Successful Savings magazine, which she sees as a stepping stone to what she really wants – to work at Alette magazine, one of those high fashion magazines that everyone seems to love so much.

Rebecca isn’t very smart – in fact it would probably be just generous to call her stupid. But unlike something like Sex and the City, at least this movie knows that its heroine is a dolt. She hasn’t learned the lesson that everyone usually learns at some point in their teenage years, which is that fashion magazines aren’t for real people – they’re for movie stars and models with the figure of a coat rack – and that if you can’t afford to buy something, then you probably shouldn’t. How she even managed to rack up those credit card bills is something I don’t really understand, but people do it all the time, so perhaps it’s not all that unbelievable.

The movie follows the plot of just about every other “chick flick” ever made. Of course, Rebecca meets a man – in this case it’s Luke Brandon played by Hugh Dancy, who is the son of a wealthy woman (think the Hiltons) who wants to make a prove himself by editing Successful Savings magazine. They don’t like each other much at first, but of course throughout the course of the movie they fall for each other, overcoming obstacles like another woman and comedic misunderstandings, blah, blah blah. You get the idea.

I find movies like Confessions of a Shopaholic to be rather tedious and boring. Part of it is because I’m a man, and as such, I will admit that I was never the intended audience for a movie like this. But I’m not really the intended audience for many of the movies I end up loving, so it’s more than that. It also has to do with the fact that the film just so mindlessly follows its template that there isn’t a moment in the film where you doubt what is going to happen in the next moment. There isn’t a moment that hasn’t been telegraphed well in advance. You can either accept this, and just go along for the ride, or you can fight against it, which is my usual response. True, the romantic comedy formula hasn’t much changed in decades, but at least they could try to do it well. If director PJ Hogan (who knows how to make a good romantic comedy, since he’s the director of My Best Friend’s Wedding and Muriel’s Wedding) tried in this film, the result isn’t on the screen.

But I think it goes even deeper than that. I get tired of watching movies about dumb people. And as adorable as Rebecca Bloomwood is, she is an idiot. I will never understand why women embrace movies like this, which seems to view all women as mindless drones intent only on shopping and landing rich, good looking husbands. Confessions of a Shopaholic wastes it’s cast (aside from Fisher, the movie co-stars Joan Cusack, John Goodman, John Lithgow and Kristen Scott Thomas, all of whom are smart enough to have known just how bad this movie was going to be) and just sits there on the screen taking up space. I’m not sure if even the biggest romantic comedy fan will be able to stand this one.

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