Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)

The title may be a little misleading: Confessions of a Shopaholic does revel in the joys of retail therapy -- well, it practically rolls around in racks of brightly colored floofery and designer bling. But it is also, more or less, a cautionary tale about spendthrift ways, racking up unsustainable credit card debt, and learning to live within one's means. And also about being fashionable. Because if we're going to have to be fiscally responsible in these financially calamitous times, we should do it with style. Let's not all go crazy and start wearing hair shirts, right? It's Confessions of a Shopaholic, not the Confessions of St. Augustine. Although I, for one, would go see the movie of Augustine's wayward 4th century youth.

Confessions of a Shopaholic, based on the popular novels by Sophie Kinsella, is a slapstick comedy with a thoroughly adorable cast, a spoonful of sugar that really helps the medicine go down. Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, John Goodman, Joan Cusack, Kristen Scott Thomas, Krysten Ritter, Julie Hagerty -- the whole cast is just so fun and sweet and comfy, which is precisely the sort of thing one needs to provide psychological balance in a movie about shopping addiction, crushing personal debt, and unemployment. Confessions is also, of course, a fantasy, and a fairy tale, in which a poor commoner meets a handsome and wealthy prince (and he's even British!), albeit a stern sort of adorable prince whose mantra is fiscal responsibility, and whose magazine is called Successful Savings. Truly, who could resist a magazine with such a title, promising, as it does, instant nongratification?

Not Rebecca Bloomwood (Fisher), although she tries. She is the titular shopaholic, addicted to Dolce & Gabbana and Dior. Clothes talk to her, beckon to her, offer succor from whatever it is that causes her to become completely undone when she walks by a store window. The movie is rather coy about what, exactly, that big, unfillable void in Rebecca's life might be -- it's not men -- she's more interested in fashion than fellas. Rebecca is a journalist who dreams of working for the fashionista fatasmagoria that is
Allette magazine. Through a postal mixup, she ends up hired by the wrong magazine -- the dowdy, bring-your-own-sack-lunch Successful Savings -- where the prince of an editor, Luke Brandon (Dancy) is utterly charmed by her straightforward, no-nonsense financial advice. Which advice is of course completely bogus and even fraudulent, but which unaccountably takes New York by storm. Before very long, Rebecca is the toast of the town. So apparently people do read Successful Savings magazine. But will her profligate ways ruin her career and her budding romance? Will fame and fashion come between Rebecca and her best friend Suze (Ritter)? Will the ruthless and dour debt collector catch up with her?

Confessions isn't really particularly plot-driven -- this is the movie equivalent of a shopping spree, all color and texture and distracting shiny objects and the promise of fabulousness. In the chick flick pantheon it's something of a cross between Sex and the City and Bridget Jones' Diary, but with less desperation and self-loathing. Director P.J. Hogan goes for kookiness and caricature more than character, so the whole movie is lighter-than-crinoline and doesn't support a whole lot of deep thinking about the pitfalls of the consumer culture. Confessions takes place on Fifth Avenue, not Wall Street (and certainly not Main Street), so it is not about to ruin a good fantasy with a big dose of reality. It's a candy-colored sensory confection with a dollop of sensibility -- and a pretty shoe -- on top.