Confessions of a Shopaholic (Blu-ray)
Directed by P. J. Hogan
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 106 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, others
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: June 23, 2009
Review Date: June 19, 2009
What might have been a fresh, funny little romp about incurable shopping compulsions instead turns into a lamely farcical and lumpy dirge in P. J. Hogan’s Confessions of a Shopaholic. The assembled cast includes some of the brightest comedy talents of the last two decades, but the result is a mess, a frenetic overdone comic farce with erratic gags and only a few precious instances of real inspiration amid the chaos and comic blunders of the plotting and performing. This one is a major disappointment.
Though she’s $16,000 in debt due to an unquenchable thirst to shop, journalist Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) continues to pile up debt and rather than spending her time writing articles to pay off what she owes, she spends her time concocting outlandish excuses to offer up to debt collectors, especially a particularly dogged one named Derek Smeath (Robert Stanton). When she loses her job and only source of income, she goes looking for work at top fashion magazine Alette, but her position has just gone to fashionista rival Alicia Billington (Leslie Bibb), so she applies for a job at another magazine in the same publishing house Successful Saving, ironically landing a job as a columnist who advises readers on ways to avoid debt by using the pen name “The Girl with the Green Scarf,” another accessory she bought by borrowing money from a man who later turns out to be her boss, Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy). Can Rebecca get her spending under control before her secret is revealed to the higher ups in the company?
Though the books which formed the basis of the screenplay by Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth, and Kayla Alpert are best sellers, the script is much too crowded with plots unrelated to the principal one: Rebecca finding some way to curb her spending and repay what she owes. Being a romantic comedy, there have to be scenes where her “meet cute” (at a hot dog stand) intended and she slowly fall in love, and though these scenes are there, they‘re not handled with finesse or freshness. Rather we have a dreadful banquet scene where Rebecca gets mistaken for a waitress and instead of standing up for herself, just bumbles around until there are the expected overturned trays of food (I basically gave up on the film with that bit of heavyhanded slapstick); we have a dance scene which we want to be magical but is weighed down by both Hugh Dancy and Isla Fisher’s rather flatfooted ballroom skills. We also have uninteresting, unfunny scenes dealing with her roommate Suze’s (Krysten Ritter) upcoming wedding and the hideous bridesmaid dress that becomes the focal point of their make-or-break friendship. Where the movie does accomplish some lightness and magic is with an on-going running gag/fantasy of living mannequins who try to persuade Rebecca to make purchases. More of this kind of innovative flair and less frantic slapstick tomfoolery would have given the movie a fleetness and effervescence that it needed to score as a heartfelt romantic comedy.
Isla Fisher has scored wonderfully well in previous comedies like Wedding Crashers and Definitely, Maybe, but here she’s trying way too hard to please, overdoing the klutzy, goggled-eyed mannerisms when a more subdued, in-control take in the Amy Adams mold would have worked so much better. Hugh Dancy must play straight man to her comic outrageousness, and he has no problem doing that though his character almost seems a part of a different movie. Two-time Oscar nominee Joan Cusak and multiple Emmy nominee John Goodman play Fisher’s parents, but their opportunities for establishing real characters are slim. However, even they come off well compared to the wasted chances afforded such strong comic talents as John Lithgow, Kristin Scott Thomas, Julie Hagerty, Christine Ebersole, Wendie Malick, and Lynn Redgrave. Not a one of them really gets a chance to shine in more than a one-dimensional role.
The film’s theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is razor sharp, and there is a great deal of detail to be seen in many of the faux furs Fisher wears as well as the dresses, shoes, handbags, and other clothing accessories that are so important to the film’s plot. Color saturation is incredibly deep though flesh tones do veer toward pink, and I glimpsed some slight moiré in the grille work of a fancy automobile as the camera tracked by it. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is very typically for a comedy not very enveloping. The music score by James Newton Howard is the primary occupant of the surrounds during the movie though occasionally during some of the frenzied shopping sprees, the screams of the harried shoppers end up in the rears and through the soundstage. The LFE channel gets mostly to rest during the film.
“Behind the Fashion” is an encompassing series of brief 1080p featurettes covering several aspects of the production. They include:
“Wardrobe by Patricia Field” which finds the award-winning fashion designer discussing her choices for the looks for various characters in this 3-minute featurette.
“Temple of Shopping” takes us into Bendel’s, a Manhattan store noted for its fashions as the director and production designer discuss the theme of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which was used in the store décor for the film. This lasts 2 ½ minutes.
“The Green Scarf” is the principal symbol of the movie, and costume designer Patricia Field talks about her six mock-ups that were made before the final design was decided upon. This runs for 1 ½ minutes.
“Sample Sale Madness” shows some of the behind-the-scenes filming done for the sample sales spree sequence. It lasts 2 minutes.
“Window Shopping” discusses the film’s brightest idea, the “living mannequins” and how the CGI effect was accomplished. This runs for 1 ¾ minutes.
The other features are in 480i.
A blooper reel runs for 2 minutes.
There are four deleted scenes which can be viewed individually or in one 6 ¼-minute grouping.
Three music videos may be selected. They are “Stuck with Each Other” (3 ½ minutes), “Accessory” (3 ½ minutes), and “Takes Time to Love” (2 ½ minutes).
The disc offers 1080p trailers for The Proposal, Lost - Season 1, and Morning Light.
The second disc in the Blu-ray set is a digital copy of the film. Enclosed is a list of directions for installation on PC and Mac devices.
It’s not the light, airy romantic comedy that fans of Sex & the City or The Devil Wears Prada were hoping for, but Confessions of a Shopaholic has a few laughs amid all the clutter and confusion and features a charming central couple (Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy) who might one day find the right film vehicle for their talents.