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Blu-ray Review: Confessions of a Shopaholic

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Both as a society and as individuals, we seem to increasingly find ourselves addicted to things.  Whether it's an incredibly enthusiastic obsession with television, a compulsion to check one's fantasy baseball team on an hourly basis, or a shopping fixation, there seems to always be something on which to spend every last ounce of energy and time we possess.  It should then come as no surprise when a successful series of books focusing on a so-called "shopaholic" is turned into a motion picture, after all, while we may not have Becky Bloomwood's addiction to shopping, we all recognize the same obsessive tendency in ourselves.

Based on UK writer Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic novels, Confessions of a Shopaholic, director P.J. Hogan (Muriel's Wedding) and star Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers) attempt to bring the character and conundrum to life.  They don't succeed.

For the filmic version, Becky Bloomwood finds herself in New York, working for a magazine she despises, an addiction to high fashion clothes, and credit card debt.  Through a series of light-hearted – and ludicrous – reversals, she quickly finds herself working at a finance magazine, working for the obviously soon-to-be-love-of-her-life Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy) at a financial magazine for the average person.  The irony is clear as Becky finds herself unable to manage her own finances and yet brilliantly tells others how to manage theirs.

The entire film unfolds as a series of episodes from Becky's life, all of which have been strung together into a mostly cohesive whole.  Though it is amusing at times, the film never does anything that is in anyway unexpected – even the characters seem well aware from the start of the film where they're going to find themselves in an hour and forty-five minutes.  Even with the love story it doesn't appear as though there's some sort of magical, fairy tale love or issue of destiny involved, instead Becky and Luke seem to end up together solely because she's the female lead, he's the male lead, and in a romantic comedy that's just how it goes.

It's all very light-hearted and brisk, and enjoyable in a background noise sort of way, but the stakes never feel appropriately high.  Becky does find a debt collector after her, but he seems more obsessed with finding her because of how horribly she's lied to him, not because of the amount of cash she owes.  In fact, the amount of money that Becky seems to have spent on high fashion items makes her the best shopper ever.  For an individual who spends all her time buying the newest, latest, greatest, fashion items from the most expensive fashion houses and who has no money whatsoever, Becky owes remarkably little cash.  What's worse than that, is that no one seems to acknowledge as much.  It is as though when they adapted the British novel to a U.S. screenplay they just scrubbed out all the pound signs and threw in dollar signs, without ever acknowledging the exchange rate.  If high fashion only cost what Becky spends on it, there would be a whole lot more people out there with the newest Prada shoes.

The film falls down in other areas besides the money issue however.  Watching Becky in the workplace early on, one is absolutely astounded that she ever got employed anywhere.  When she begins her new job she shows up late to a meeting, and begins to loudly sharpen her pencil, thereby interrupting everyone and bringing the meeting to a crashing halt.  It's as though she is in middle school, not a writer who has worked at other magazines or someone who has ever attended any sort of business function. 

Joan Cusack, John Goodman, and John Lithgow all manage to make smallish appearances in the film, which only serve to leave the audience utterly flabbergasted at why the three would have bothered.  At least Kristin Scott Thomas gets to be over-the-top and fun as the head of a fashion magazine, the other three are just… there.

Perhaps the best thing about the film is the quality of the Blu-ray release.  It is, as one would expect from a new fashion-focused film, incredibly sharp and bright, with all the patterns on every outfit Becky wears perfectly visible.  The sound is just as crisp and clean as the picture, with every utterance of the words "Yves saint Laurent" coming across as some sort of monastic chant.

The release also contains the necessary deleted scenes and bloopers as well as some music videos.  As for behind-the-scenes bits, the audience is treated to discussions of fashion in the film and how items worn were chosen, the aesthetic look that they were trying to achieve, etc.

In the end, Isla Fisher actually almost pulls the entire thing off.  Despite the utterly nonsensical things the character does and the complete lack of dramatic tension, Fisher's charisma and charm come through to such an extent that it all almost works… almost.  The fashions exhibited in the movie may be fabulous — I'm certainly no judge of that – but without a decent story to back them and Fisher up, there just isn't enough in Confessions of a Shopaholic to make it worth more than a rental on an otherwise slow night.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.