Director: P. J Hogan
Cast: Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Krysten Ritter, Robert Stanton, John Goodman, Joan Cusack, Kristen Scott Thomas, John Lithgow, Leslie Bibb
Plot: A journalist with an addiction to shopping (Fisher) tries to bluff her way into a top job, but her obsession with spending threatens to be her downfall.
This American adaptation of the charming British novel by Sophie Kinsella has a tricky obstacle standing in the way of the enjoyment you will get out of this. A shopping addiction, at least for this particular viewer, is a hard obsession to empathise with. While director Hogan does try to get across the sense of Rebecca being dragged into the shops outside of her free will, it is difficult to quite sympathise with her when she ruins a major turning point in her life by fantasising over a pair of shoes. Too often does the lead character get her life on track, only to ruin her situation by going on a shopping spree. I understand that this is the whole purpose of Kinsella’s novel and protagonist, but it is hard to find too much emotion for a character that seems intent on setting fire to her current situation for something as trivial as a handbag.
For what it’s worth, the cast are charmingly endearing. There are just enough major stars here to earn some curiosity. John Goodman always improves whatever project he is in, playing a cheerfully boisterous father, a role sadly trimmed into little more than a cameo, but his moments breathe life into the film. Kristen Scott Thomas adopts a French accent for the head of a fashion magazine. It is also nice to see Krysten Ritter here, before the fame of her television career took off, yet still providing solid support as the kooky best friend with an upcoming wedding. If anything Ritter might just run away with the show here, with perhaps the smallest scenes. Then there is Isla Fisher, cursed with playing the crazy shopaholic individual. Fisher does inject exuberant energy into the character, nailing that upbeat persona that stems from severe denial. As the character manages to fool everyone into thinking she is in control of her high maintenance life, her energy hides a mentality that is crumbling from within. You feel that if the events of this movie weren’t surrounding an inability to own a credit card without bankrupting it minutes later, the performance might have even be endearing. If the emotion doesn’t land, at least Fisher keeps the jokes alive, one scene where she tries to bluff her way through speaking Finnish and then a dance routine adding high moments to a central plot struggling to take off. In terms of acting, the only person you can really be disappointed in is Hugh Dancy, smouldering his way through a part that was probably written for another Hugh, before Dancy got his hands on it. Awkwardly British and charmingly sharp, Dancy’s love interest is an one-dimensional cliché, the kind of work British actors could land themselves by exaggerating their accents. Dancy was likely using this movie to catapult him into American cinema, but it is a shame to see him working with such a thin character. On a good day, Dancy is the strongest actor in this film, but this is most definitely not a good day. Dancy aside, the actors do their best to keep a plot afloat. It’s a demanding job for them. The plot revolves around Fisher bluffing her way into a top journalism job, letter mix-ups being misread as genius metaphors and social faux-pas being interpreted as just what the company needs. A plot point with a dogged debt collector adds just enough excitement to the proceedings to stop Confessions of a Shopaholic descending into total dross, but arguably this is too late in the day to pull the movie back from its clunky beginnings. In short, this movie is light fun and might appeal to the Sex and the City fans, who are waiting for the next Sex and the City movie to come out. However, if this isn’t your genre, it is probably best to stay away.
Final Verdict: A strong cast try their best to keep a sinking plot afloat, but when the central premise is so tricky, there is not a lot that can be done.