Friday, February 13, 2009

Review: "Confessions of a Shopaholic"

I’m an aging, unhip guy who spent, literally, $57 on clothing last year, so clearly I am not the target audience for “Confessions of a Shopaholic.” But then, I fear to think who that target audience would be.

If they’re like Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher), every month they spend thousands of dollars they don’t have on extravagant clothing. When they walk by a New York fashion store, their legs go gooey and the window mannequins come alive, beckoning like bejeweled harlots.

If Rebecca represents more than, say, 1 percent of actual womanhood, then President Obama’s stimulus bill won’t matter a whit, because our economy is doomed.

Rebecca is able (barely) to keep feeding the monkey on her back – represented by bill collectors for her dozen maxed-out credit cards – via her meager income writing for a gardening magazine. But then the mag goes belly up, and the bill collectors start getting really antsy.

Our heroine has always dreamed of writing for Alette, the hoity-toity fashion magazine named after its boss (Kristin Scott Thomas). Alas, on the day she shows up for her interview, she finds out the leggy and vampy insider Alicia (Leslie Bibb) has already snagged the job. But tipped off that the stuffy Successful Savings, which is published by the same media conglomerate, is currently hiring, she crashes the interviews and lands the job, despite having a mind more for Prada than percentages. Her plan is to get her foot in the door and eventually slide up to Alette.

This is, of course, Hollywood hogwash. It assumes that the editor, an ambitious Brit named Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy), would hire someone without ever looking at Rebecca’s resume or clips. But he’s also the designated beau-to-be, so logic gets shoved aside.

Rebecca makes a big splash with her first (and apparently only) article, comparing companies that obscure their strategies with “cashmere” clothing that’s only 1/20th cashmere. Soon she’s being wined and dined at important magazine hobnobs, which conveniently occur a few days after her article debuts. She and Luke spend a few days at a conference in the Miami sun getting predictably moony toward each other.

Maybe it’s my $57 fashion sensibility talking, but I have to say that for a movie centered on clothing, the outfits in “Shopaholic” look pretty tacky. For her big television appearance, Rebecca rejects an understated outfit selected by Alette herself in favor of a number that looks like a purple waterfall. But I suspect more avid consumers will find all the clothing references très chic.

This movie is the first leading role for Isla Fisher, who’s been a busy comedic supporting player in movies like “Wedding Crashers.” She’s a charming screen presence, with a sweet but neurotic vibe that makes her seem more even-keeled than her spendthrift actions would suggest.

“Confessions of a Shopaholic” is based on the books by Sophie Kinsella, and was directed by Aussie filmmaker P.J. Hogan (“Muriel’s Wedding”). It’s got a few original bits, like when Rebecca goes to shopaholic sessions, and sends the group leader spinning off the wagon herself. But mostly this is one romantic comedy that plays it by the numbers.

Two stars out of four

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