Confessions of a Shopaholic is a lot more in sync with the zeitgeist than you'd expect from a movie with that title. A dizzy and chic chick picture for our times, this hit-or-miss comedy is about the perils of conspicuous consumption, the void that shopping fills in some souls.
But mostly, it's about the dizziness. Isla Fisher of Wedding Crashers is a Prada-wearing, pratfalling marvel in this, her first Hollywood star vehicle. She is adorable, sexy and daffy, even in those stretches when the movie isn't.
Fisher plays Becca, a young New York career woman trying to support an Yves St. Laurent/Barneys New York habit on a magazine journalist's salary.
Memo to Hollywood: That's pure fantasy. But never mind.
Becca grew up the only child of a couple of swap-meet misers (Joan Cusack and John Goodman, fun). She's compensating now by dressing to the nines, running up credit card bills, dodging bill collectors, and lying to one and all about it.
“When I shop,” she confesses, “the world seems better.” The things she buys — pricey purses, gloves, shoes, scarves, what have you — “define me.”
Her dream: to work for the French and tres chic Alette (Kristin Scott Thomas) at the tres chic Alette magazine. But her foot in the door at that publishing empire is a stumble into working for the handsome go-getter editor (Hugh Dancy) and writing about personal finances at the magazine he runs.
Becca is on the run from one persistent debt collector because, when she walks by a store, the mannequins in the window literally beckon her inside. That's a pretty neat effect, by the way — motion-captured mannequins. Her world is bright, bright colors and designer labels, which sometimes trick her into thinking she's getting better quality and more out of life than she is.
Director P.J. Hogan did My Best Friend's Wedding and Muriel's Wedding, so he knows a little about femme-friendly froth. But his movie, which adapts and in many ways improves on Brit novelist Sophie Kinsella's Bridget Jones Lite book, loses the main thread of the story — the problem shopping and the debt juggling — in the middle acts. The love story is hard to build in when she's supposed to be falling for her boss, even if that boss is Dancy, the new Colin Firth. And a couple of the shopping scenes are flat-out sexist.
But Fisher is a delight, giving this ga-ga for Gucci girl her all, wearing the funky/sexy/garish clothes, taking the tumbles and the tequila shots (which she does during “bill opening” evenings), corrupting her Shopaholics Anonymous meetings. In a movie that lacks a decent villain, whose roommate-sidekick role (Krysten Ritter) is underwritten, at least Wendie Malick is well-cast as the shopaholic group leader.
Confessions manages to be a cute time-killer and a timely wish-fulfillment fantasy. Think of it as a Shopping in the City for folks too spent for sex.