Rebecca Bloomwood's (Isla Fisher, "Wedding Crashers," "Definitely, Maybe") job at a gardening magazine is not equal to her taste in designer fashion. She longs for a gig at Allette, but when that opportunity goes to Alicia Billington (Leslie Bibb, "Iron Man'), she attempts to get her foot in the door by taking a job at another of the publisher's offerings, Successful Savings, a subject she couldn't be more hopeless about. A series of misadventure and good luck turn her into a media sensation, but her past looms and Rebecca tries to deal via "Confessions of a Shopaholic."
Australian director P.J. Hogan has brought a delightful effervescence to such films as "Muriel's Wedding" and "My Best Friend's Wedding," but he's missed the bridal bouquet with a lazy script by Tracey Jackson ("The Guru") and the "Calendar Girls" team of Tim Firth and Kayla Alpert and one of the worst cases of release timing in Hollywood history. As the U.S. economy melts down, it is to Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy's credit that their likability and talent make this trifle, where a career woman in serious debt still cannot resist the call of Gucci boots, more bearable than it ought to be.
On her way to an interview at Allette, Rebecca cannot resist the call of a pricey green scarf, but her credit is overextended and she does not have enough cash. She tries to resolve this problem at a corner hot dog stand where a good looking stranger hands her a twenty with a brief byword on value vs. cost. When Rebecca is punted from Allette to Successful Savings (in a series of events that bear no resemblance to modern interviewing practice), damned if her savior doesn't turn out to be Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy, "Ella Enchanted," "The Jane Austen Book Club"), the hiring editor. He's read into the article Becky intended for Allette a metaphor for investment and in Chauncey Gardener style, she's given a spot in something she's not.
When her first assignment is to write about store card APR's, Becky's avoids the issue by attending a sample sale, which ends up giving her the inspiration to churn out another metaphorical piece. As 'the girl in the green scarf,' Becky becomes a sensation, but she is dogged by debt collector Derek Smeath (Robert Stanton, "The Stepford Wives," "Find Me Guity") and romantically foiled by her Allette competitor Alicia, just as she is attracting the attention of that mag's editor Alette Naylor (Kristin Scott Thomas, "The Other Boleyn Girl," "I've Loved You So Long").
Besides the over the top consumption of luxury goods, which at least is countered by Becky's parents' (Joan Cusack and John Goodman) thrifty ways, "Confessions of a Shopaholic is a major let down because its authors couldn't be bothered filling in connective blanks. Alicia suddenly pops up as a rival as Brandon's date to a charity ball in a move that is nonsensical, only there to present Becky with a rival and completely unfounded by any logic whatsoever. Becky's sudden, unwarranted celebrity as a financial guru could be accepted as the type of fantasy this type of fluff sells, but there is no good foundation why her musings should change the life long practices of her parents, other than to place her in a jam. Everything about the script is cookie cutter, a reversible wear "The Devil Wears Prada" knockoff that wears out its welcome.
Scotswoman Isla Fisher, with her flaming red hair, puts one in mind of a modern day Lucille Ball - the woman has serious comedic chops and can pull off a pratfall with elegant ease. She also exudes a sweet nature that keeps one in her corner even as her character makes disastrous decisions, although Hogan sometimes pushes scenes into the realm of forced hilarity. Hugh Dancy could potentially inherit the mantle of another English Hugh - Grant - he's not as strong a personality, but has proven himself in similar outings and hits all the right notes here. Krysten Ritter ("27 Dresses," "What Happens in Vegas") lends strong support as Becky's best friend. Kirstin Scott Thomas turns on her adopted French citizenry to good measure as a fashion icon. The cast is full of famous faces in small roles - SNL's Fred Armisen, "3rd Rock's" John Lithgow, "Just Shoot Me's" Wendy Malick, "Airplane!'s" Julie Hagerty, even a Lynn Redgrave cameo - but they add little flavor. Goodman is a blue collar dad with heart but Cusack cannot resist a tendency to mug.
The seductive, animated mannequins of "Confessions of a Shopaholic" applaud Becky's ability to resist their wares at film's end. If they did so in today's world, they'd quickly be pink slipped by store owners. The time for "Sex and the City" style extravagance has passed and "Confessions" looks like last season's shopworn goods. Fisher and Dancy cannot quite overcome a sloppy script and make the markdown look like a bargain.
Robin did not see this film.
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