US Rating: Rated PG - For Some Mild Language and Thematic Elements
Film Length: 105 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital Surround 5.1, Spanish and French Language Track
Subtitles: French and Spanish
Review Date: June 21, 2009
The Film - out of
Becky Bloomward has two problems. One that is ritual and another that is external. Her ritual problem is an addiction to shopping; a rampant compulsion to purchase; to soak up the newness of merchandise, to convince herself that she needs the ‘things’ that brightly adorn her life. The external problem is the crushing weight of her debt and debtors. And her problems come to a head as Confessions of a Shopaholic gets going. Living a fantasy of high fashion and ‘labels’, Becky pursues her dream job of writing for the elite ‘Alette’ magazine, but her pursuit is rife with hurdles. Deep in debt, in need of a job, she manages to get a trial job working for ‘Successful Saving’ magazine, a financial reporting publication seemingly way beyond her capabilities as a journalist. But she strikes the right tone with a column on finances told through the eye of a shopper (under the moniker ‘The girl in the green scarf) and is on her way.
But she is living a lie. She’s no financial expert, has inflated her resume and has told her co-workers and handsome, English boss that the debt collector hunting her down is a stalking ex-boyfriend. The hi-jinks are kicked off from here.
This is a fairytale, plain and simple but has an intelligent undercurrent to the surfeit fluff and silliness, though it never fully comes to fruition. The film rides heavily on the performance of its principle player, Isla Fisher as young Becky. She eats up the role and performs the often physical comedy with a breezy playful persistence. But it is the balancing of her outgoing and clumsy girl with the soft-centered, innocent and vulnerable side that draws you in. As her romantic interest, Luke Brandon – a wealthy, confident and suave editor is Hugh Dancy who shows real promise in the leading man category. They have a sweet chemistry that works in their scenes together. Performances from supporting players are equal to expectations for a film like this. John Goodman and Joan Cusack as Becky’s down to earth (and thrifty) parents are likeable and a little goofy, Krysten Ritter as Becky’s best friend as well suited, John Lithgow as the magazine head honcho is fitting, though little seen and Kirsten Scott Thomas as the haughty chief of ‘Alette’ magazine, with her thick French accent and snootiness, are right in line. But there is a distinct downside as well as Confession’s has a weaker set of ingredients in the mix.
What should have been a piercingly agile and virulently sharp indictment on consumerism and opulence (in comedic form), Confession’s meanders into middle of the road normalcy and blisteringly average romantic comedy fare with well worn trifles and tribulations for its characters. For every step onto the path of financial responsibility our lead character takes, an unwelcome relapse comes along and takes it right back to where it started – which becomes predictable and a continuing celebration of the gluttony of green and the pathetic pull of plastic – despite the finale which sets it all expectedly straight.
The film also suffers from pacing and script issues. It zips through the set up and financial downfall of Becky, impatient it appears to get into the primary plot of her denial and success, which hurts the first act. We are not given enough of the Becky character’s flagrant overspending and lifestyle before the rug is repossessed beneath her to feel the impact of her predicament (though we have all had eyes bigger than our wallets from time to time which helps us make up some ground). Better pacing and a fuller first act would have rounded out her character, provided more balance on either side of the financial see-saw and sweetened the payoff.
Finally, Confessions mishandles its music from time to time. Pop hits are allowed to become invasive and lack subtlety – a problem not uncommon on television and film aimed toward the younger demographic..
Despite the flaws, Confessions of a Shopaholic manages to present itself as a likeable and occasionally very funny film. Director P.J Hogan does a terrific job keeping the energy high and the vision creative and being a Jerry Bruckheimer production gives the whole proceeding a slick and polished, high quality feel.
The widescreen presentation of this film, coming with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for widescreen televisions, is good but not great. While the brightness of the fashion and sunny days looks good here, the level of detail isn’t quite as good as I was expecting. Some softness detracts from the generally glossy look of the production. Flesh tones are represented well here and Isla Fisher’s red hair (not quite as red when she is downtrodden in the film) lights up the screen as well, but this just isn’t the top-notch image you might expect from a 2009 theatrical release.
Confessions of a Shopaholic comes to us from Touchstone Pictures with pretty aggressive Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio. Most of the aggression comes from the bass which is pushed deeper than any Rom-Com I can recall in recent memory, thumping with the multiple pop songs which punctuate the entire experience. The surrounds come in to play fairly often, again from the afore mentioned songs and in summary, the audio is healthy and free of issues throughout.
Deleted Scenes – A total of four deleted scenes (available with a play all feature) can be found on the disc and all were rightfully excised.
Bloopers of a Shopaholic - (2:07) – A cute blooper real filled mainly with a zany Isla Fisher.
”Stuck With Each Other” Music Video by Shontelle, Featuring Akon - (3:25) – An average music video for a song that has clearly borrowed its hook bass line from Madonna’s song ‘The Power of Good-Bye’.
Disc Two - Digital Copy of the Film - iTunes and Windows Media friendly digital copy of the film.
Confessions of a Shopaholic did not perform at the box office and I find that surprising since it is certainly much better, despite its drawbacks, than plenty of the other films of its ilk. Isla Fisher is terrific as the ‘shopaholic’ and the film’s timing, called unfortunate by some, could not have been more appropriate in my opinion. Released amidst the surging waves of the financial meltdown and the ‘buyer’s remorse’ social feeling that was among the dust sweeping the nation along with the outrage and fear, it strikes the right chord albeit as an extreme version of what many consider the general nature of American spending.
Based on the popular book of the same name by Sophie Kinsella, the film’s plot centered on the comedic outcome of crude spending existentialism framed within standard romantic comedy trappings is filled with hits and misses – but overall is cute and funny enough to check out. But pay cash and keep the receipt, just in case you have the inkling to return or exchange.