Film discussion

Confessions of a Shopaholic – Throwback 10

In 2019, we live in a world of excess, where every whim is available at the touch of a button and our homes and offices are full of far more stuff than we could ever hope to keep, use, or truly love. Fortunately, off the back of recent minimalist movements, more people than ever (including yours truly) are examining their spending habits and improving their lives as a result.

How appropriate then, as the KonMari method of shedding the unnecessary becomes de rigeur, that Confessions of a Shopaholic, adapted from the Sophie Kinsella bestseller of the same name arrives, albeit ten years ago, to teach a similar lesson. This slice of a romantic comedy follows Rebecca Bloomwood (Isle Fisher), a fun-loving fashionista whose frugal and frills-free childhood has lead to Rebecca living well beyond her means as a debt-laden shopping addict. Rebecca’s aspirations to work for elite fashion magazine Alette become entangled with the fortunes of a failing financial saving magazine and Rebecca is forced to become a writer of money-saving tips with a shamrock green scarf as a nom de plume while falling for the magazine’s editor and avoiding her indefatigable debt collector. What larks!

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Isla Fisher brings a lot out of what could be a truly annoying, entitled archetype and imbues Rebecca with a sense of buoyancy and joie de vivre, even in her lowest moments. Fortunately Fisher is also assisted by a truly fantastic supporting cast – perhaps much better than the film should rightly have. Krysten Ritter channels her comedic chops as Rebecca’s best friend, while the one-two punch of John Goodman and Joan Cusack as Fisher’s underused parents and Hannibal’s Hugh Dancy as her dry-witted boss-slash-love-interest make the film enjoyable for the background dressing alone.  The fact that Confessions of a Shopaholic boasts Kristin Scott-Thomas as an arch editor-in-bitch and comedy alumns like Fred Armisen and Wendie Malick as fun side characters is something well to be lauded.

The soundtrack deserves a mention in itself for producing some surprisingly stellar pop tunes that help elevate the film into a more enjoyable experience. Lady Gaga’s ‘Fashion’, a reworking of a song she wrote for ‘The Hills’ icon Heidi Montag, is an exercise in fun and fast robotic pop, while songs from almost-star Kat DeLuna (the sparky ‘Calling You’ and the fierce ‘Unstoppable’) and other pop starlets of the time make the soundtrack a complete guilty pleasure and a perfect fit for the film’s frothiness. This is not to say that said frivolity does not hide the serious flaws the film retains. Fisher’s Rebecca, while charming and effervescent, is still played as a self-centered heroine, concerned with her shopping addiction and goals and neglecting anything else, making her a little hard to root for, until her last minute transformation.

The plot of Confessions of a Shopaholic is as thin and malnourished as the models Alette Magazine touts so proudly, and anyone who’s seen a single rom-com in their life will be able to predict the film beat by beat, eliminating any of the ‘twists’ the film employs entirely moot and sketching some characters in one-dimensional, archetypal strokes (see: the office bitch! The kooky secretary! The sassy frenemy!). The satisfaction that comes from seeing Rebecca finally emerge on the upswing following a series of mistakes and embarrassments, including a beat where she exacts an act of petty revenge against her debt collector (however unjustified on a man just doing his job) is robbed a little thanks to these deficiencies and robs the third act of its full power as a finale.

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Ultimately, however, Confessions of a Shopaholic is an unapologetic true-blue romantic comedy for its era – it’s silly and bubbly and brushes on wider social issues (Goodman’s father figure comments on Rebecca’s crippling debt while using the recent recession, months prior to the film’s release, as an apt metaphor), and is anchored by a charismatic turn by Fisher who lifts the source material into much funnier realms.

There are far worse ways to spend an evening, and in the era of Marie Kondo minimalism, there might still be some useful life lessons to learn from this largely charming piece of fluff.

Are you a fan of Confessions of a Shopaholic? Let us know.

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