The majority of women experience an unseen and unheard dialogue between themselves and the item of clothing over which they are salivating. It goes something like this:

“Buy me,” purrs the dress, “and I shall make you complete.”

“But I can’t afford you,” bemoans the woman, “I already have a dress similar to you that I bought last month, and I’ve got to be sensible! It’s the recession, for God’s sake!”

“Think of me as a true investment,” the dress persuades, “you’ll be wearing me for years. I’ll never go out of fashion. You don’t have a frock as pretty as me, and you don’t have anything to wear for that party… you need me!”

And so it comes to pass: the dress wins the struggle, and there ensues a glittering moment of euphoria, as exquisite as the sparkling sequins upon the dress itself. A rush of adrenaline is pumped to the pit of a girl’s stomach, which flips when her card is approved, and she knows that the dress is now her own: the loyal subject that will flatter her, fill her with confidence, and for a brief, beautiful retail moment, the spotlight is on her, and the world is a better place.

But the moment never lasts. The airy, elated feeling is fleeting, and soon it is the end of the month; a time when women everywhere realize with horror that a superfluous $500 has been heaped atop an ever-expanding tower of credit card debt, for something they wore once.

This, is Rebecca Bloomwood’s story. Isla Fisher plays the clothes-crazed heroine of Confessions of a Shopaholic, a 25-year-old graduate who loves nothing more than to shop. She is very good at it – a little too good, if you know what I mean. In fact, she is hooked. Just as an alcoholic or a junkie is able to lose themselves in the hazy escapism of their substance abuse, so too is Rebecca in any designer store. She is always able to justify further expense with her spurious reasoning (“Prada underwear is a basic human right!”), making her a true addict of our time. Rebecca must have the dress, shoes, accessories, handbags, that gossamer green scarf – in her mind, each of these magical items will advance, affirm and transform her into something as gorgeous as the clothes themselves.

But her total debt of $16,000 comes as a concomitant catastrophe with the closure of the rag for which she is writing, and she is forced to seek an alternative source of income. Determined to make the most of her debt-addled circumstance, she applies for a position at the Vogue-like fashion bible, Alette, the magazine she dreams of writing for. But with the gig having been awarded to a shrew-faced nemesis, she is forced to take a job as an advice columnist for Successful Saving magazine – er, irony? Yes!

Following a series of comical scenes that expose her as inept, feckless and generally unsuitable for the role, Rebecca eventually finds her niche, and becomes an unexpected star columnist. Using retail as an effective analogy, she informs the public of debt-coping strategy and financial trickery in a language they can understand. She goes from strength to strength, boosting the sales of the flagging magazine, and winning the heart of her editor, played by the dreamy Hugh Dancy (who incidentally shares Hugh Grant’s floppy-locked gift for making insecurity look suave). Nevertheless, Rebecca’s atonement is far from complete, and in spite of her success, she continues to spend more than she earns, spiraling ever further into the dark abyss of debt.

Based on Sophie Kinsella’s fluff-stuff novels, Confessions of a Shopaholic is a cautionary tale of one girl’s prolonged shopping compulsion. Yet P.J. Hogan (My Best Friend’s Wedding) has conveniently ignored the rather serious undertone of addiction that rings true for a lot of women, and produced a film that fits the aptly termed “feel-good” variety. From its talking store-window mannequins to the winning flaws of its heroine, it’s, well cute. With costumes by Patricia Field, it offers a feast for the eyes with its color-filled couture, as well as some amusing performances by the likes of Joan Cusack, John Goodman and Kristin Scott Thomas. As a relative new-comer to the silver screen, Fisher herself offers something fresh and vibrant: with big, green eyes that widen like a mischievous child’s, she combines giddy femininity with a plain-speaking energy, which is fairly endearing. Another thing going for her is she’s not Kate Hudson…

Having said that, this is strictly one for the ladies. There can’t be many fellas out there clamoring at the doors of Loews to see it. The film is also lacking in, well you know, a plot. It mainly consists of a whirlwind of parties and shopping sprees blended together in a kind of retail-themed blur, with a few mildly funny Shopaholics Anonymous meetings thrown in for good measure. If you’re looking for serious drama, you won’t find it here. Confessions of a Shopaholic is a Bridget Jones meets Sex and the City creation: a screw-ball heroine and her life-long love affair with clothes. The movie is rom-com brain-candy, but having said that, if you are seeking a mindless but fun way to pass 112 minutes, go for it!

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Starring: Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Joan Cusack, John Goodman, Kristin Scott Thomas

Director: P.J. Hogan

Runtime: 112 mins

Distributor: Touchstone Pictures

Rating: PG




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