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CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC(director: P. J. Hogan; screenwriters: Tracey Jackson/Tim Firth/Kayla Alpert/based on the books “Confessions of a Shopaholic” and “Shopaholic Takes Manhattan” by Sophie Kinsella; cinematographer: Jo Willems; editor: William Goldenberg; music: James Newton Howard; cast: 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), Julie Hagerty (Hayley), Christine Ebersole (TV Show Host), John Salley (Ex-NBA player who is a member of therapy group for shopaholics), Robert Stanton (Derek Smeath), Nick Cornish (Tarquin); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Jerry Bruckheimer; Touchstone Pictures; 2009)
“Has nowhere to go but to the bargain basement when not shopping for Gucci.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An absurdly silly and flaccid romantic comedy about the dangers of shopping. Not only was this chick flick not funny, but it was pointless, phony and a drudge to watch at the overlong 100 minutes for such slight sitcom material. It was produced by the hack Jerry Bruckheimer, who strays from his blockbuster action pics to take on women with shopping addictions—something he even knows less about than he does about thrillers. This tedious, annoying and dreadful film is in line with Bruckheimer’s usual MO of pandering to the vicarious needs of a mass audience. He makes his doofus heroine a lovable character who is ridden with guilt over her shopping sprees while running into debt. She’s an irresponsible young adult whose self-absorbed bubbly flawed character and shopping addiction can easily be identified with by the audience. In the end it predictably straightens things out with an unconvincing and hypocritical message about learning how to save and live within your means, even though for most of the film the lady felt great after splurging on clothes. If you sit through this nonsense without squirming and looking for the exits, then you’re probably one of the shoppers targeted for the audience that Bruckheimer had in mind when he gave the green light to go ahead with such a vacuous escapist film.

Director P. J. Hogan (“My Best Friend’s Wedding”) can’t seem to get anything right about this overdressed and poorly garbed film. Screenwriters Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth, Kayla Alpert based it on the superficial 2001 chick-lit books “Confessions of a Shopaholic” and “Shopaholic Takes Manhattan” by Brit author Sophie Kinsella, but change locales from London to NYC.

Happy-go-lucky, ditzy, awkward, plucky, attractive redheaded (conjuring up images of Lucille Ball) investigative journalist for a small magazine in NYC, Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher), who when not using one of her twelve credit cards to splurge on unneeded clothes dreams of working for a Vogue-like fashion ‘zine run by a French woman named Alette (Kristin Scott Thomas). Rebecca loses her job when her ‘zine goes under and finds herself $16,000 in credit card debt and being pursued by the relentless collector Derek Smeath (Robert Stanton), whom she stalls with wild excuses.

Living on the cuff with her soon-to-be married roommate Suze (Krysten Ritter), who lets Rebecca stay at her parent-owned apartment; that is, until things get out of hand with her roomie’s reckless shopping habits and Suze makes her best friend attend meetings at an Overspenders’ Anonymous therapy group for shopaholics.

When the gig she was pursuing at Alette’s is filled by her rival Alicia Billington (Leslie Bibb), a Miss Perfect type, Rebecca attracts the handsome new editor of a struggling financial ‘zine, the half-American and Brit named Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy, an Australian), and lands a job as an investigative reporter who is the voice for the common folks in this current economic mess facing the country and offers her sound homespun advise on how to navigate the difficult times. She miraculously succeeds overnight using the pen name of “The Girl in the Green Scarf,” even though she’s clueless about the business world.

We then follow if romance will bloom between Luke, Mr. Right, and Rebecca, Miss Independent, and if she will stop lying to others and herself and control her urge to shop in Bloomingdales during sales and has the will power to pass the street window displays of the fancy Fifth Avenue stores. There’s also the problem of her shameful past of not paying her debts and of not following her own advice she dishes out in her by now popular column, as the persistent collector embarrasses her on a national television show by exposing her past. There’s also a Jerry Lewis slapstick bit that has Rebecca mistaken for a waitress at a fancy ball where she’s the guest of honor for the ‘zine’s publisher (John Lithgow), and trays go flying as she goes spastic until Luke leaves his date Alicia to save Rebecca from further embarrassment.

This old-fashioned type of hokum formulaic Hollywood film of ‘girl hooks guy by seemingly not trying’ never takes off and wastes a talented supporting cast headed by the underused John Goodman and Joan Cusack as Fisher’s loving parents. Lynn Redgrave has a disreputable cameo as a “Drunken lady at ball,” which goes over like a lead balloon. Of all people in such a pic, it has former NBA star John Salley in an extended cameo trying unsuccessfully to score with some lame comedy as a member of Fraser’s therapy support-group.

Even the film’s best asset of Fisher’s natural gift for physical comedy never materializes as anything but strained dizziness, as she uses throughout a Valley Girl like act that increasingly with overuse becomes more tiresome than appealing in a pic that has nowhere to go but to the bargain basement when not shopping for Gucci.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”