Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)

confessions of a shopaholic IMDb

My first thought after this film ended was ‘what might have been’. This starts off as an amusing take of credit card debt and quickly degrades into a generic rom-com minus the com. Isla Fisher is wasted in the second half of this film when all she does is bat her eyelids at her boss (Hugh Dancy) until sparks fly. It is very disappointing because I found myself laughing quite a lot for the first 30 minutes of this film. Fisher has great comedic timing (clearly learnt from her days on the set of Home and Away) and it is on show when she is finding creative ways to avoid debt collectors and having imaginary conversations with store front mannequins about what she should purchase. She is very funny and so is her best friend, played by Krysten Ritter. It is such a shame she is reduced to a generic love interest in the second half of this film.

Fisher plays Rebecca Bloomwood, a writer in some serious credit card debt due to her love of shopping. She somehow talks her way into a job at a high end finance magazine run by Luke Brandon (Dancy) when she compares financial issues to a shopping expedition. She makes the intellectual world of finance understandable for the average person and becomes a cult celebrity. Along the way, she must hide her debt problems from her new boss/suitor, while also trying to avoid the debt collection agency whenever they come calling.

This film had a lot of potential. I was drawn in by Fisher at the beginning, she is charming and funny in her role. I lost interest very quickly when the film devolved into an average romantic comedy, but somehow managed to also stop being funny. I didn’t understand why Rebecca has to hide her debt from her new employers, it’s none of their business what her financial situation is. I also didn’t understand why the debt collectors were so insistent she be paying off the full amount in one payment. All of those types of businesses would have a payment plan option, it didn’t make any sense why the collector would not mention this as an option for Isla Fisher’s character. This film was disappointing to me, mostly because I could see it had potential. Fisher can be very funny and her supporting case is very solid (John Goodman, Joan Cusack and John Lithgow also star). It is a shame that this talented cast is wasted in just another generic romance movie.

Rating: D

I clearly remember the first time I watched Confessions of a Shopaholic. It was 2010. I was working part-time in a department store and living with my parents. It was the last place I thought I’d be as a mid-20-something, but I didn’t have any other choice. I wasn’t making enough to support myself, and was desperate to stay in the workforce after nearly two years of unemployment post-college graduation. To top it all off, I was in debt to the tune of $15,000+, though few people knew about this (I managed to never miss a payment, so thankfully was never pursued by debt collectors. The character in this movie is not spared this humiliation.).

Some of the debt was due to a modest student loan I took out my final year of college to cover tuition when my financial aid ran out. But this amount accounted for less than half of that total. The rest was racked up over about seven years and was split amongst three credit cards. Some was due to legitimate purchases (food, textbooks and school supplies, interview expenses, gas), but all too much of it was the result of unnecessary spending. So as I sat watching Isla Fisher whip out her credit cards for frivolous things like green scarves and designer dresses, I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. This was me, just replace the fugly clothing with books and the Netflix subscription that brought this DVD to my mailbox. As a result I hated Shopaholic. It was pointing out all my weakness, and presenting a cutesy happy ending that I knew was not going to happen for me. I was upset at being reminded of my own financial shortcomings, even though the fault was all my own (I did put this in my queue, after all).

I was interested to watch this movie again, now that I’m (thankfully) fully removed from my previous situation. The only debt I have now is a mortgage, which is considered “good debt.” My credit cards are figuratively on ice, and I only break them out to make the odd online purchase and pay the entire balance off immediately. Would I feel more sympathetic towards Fisher’s ditzy Rebecca Bloomwood now? Would I feel that the movie teaches good lessons? Would I even find it remotely funny?

No. Kinda. Eh… sometimes. I still don’t love this movie, but it is better than I remembered. The main failing is that it starts off strong, but devolves into a generic rom-com with the moral “you should love people, not things.” I agree with that, but the execution is so boring and predictable that I stopped caring about Rebecca’s fate about halfway through. I’m also incredibly hard on myself, so even though I now have my spending under control, I can’t bring myself to forgive some of Rebecca’s behavior. But at least I can laugh at most of it. Fisher is a talented and witty comedienne, and seems to really relish this role.

Would I recommend this to a fellow shopaholic? Maybe, provided said big spender was under the age of 30. I just don’t feel like this would resonate with anyone much older. This person might also have to be blind, because most of the fashions here are hideous. The outfits undercut the reality of conspicuous consumption due to the fact that it’s completely implausible that anyone would want to own any of this clothing. I’m not entirely sure this would appeal to most men either. Perhaps a remake starring a younger Ryan Reynolds type who has a penchant for leasing expensive cars is in order.

Rating: C

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