Blu-ray Review: Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)

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Much like Rebecca Bloomwood (played by Isla Fisher), as a young girl I too was entranced by the idea of "magic cards" that could be swiped instead of handing over real, actual, tangible money for goods and services. This fascination also extended to checks to such an extent that I actually remember advising my mom to "go for it" once when we were at the grocery store after she told the clerk she had forgotten to stop at the bank so would need to whip out the checkbook.

"You don't need money, mom; just write a check," I informed her-- seriously unaware that much like the pretty cards (which are far more gorgeous today with impressionistic backgrounds and AmEx status plastic that resembles shiny gold)-- the pieces of paper you tore from the book that always seemed to stick to the messy carbons were temporary stand-ins for what was in your bank account. Of course, I also assumed that the reason you had to show your driver's license when you wrote a check (back when people actually wrote checks) was to prove to the cashier that you had a driver's license, were trustworthy, and would therefore drive the groceries home safely.

While it was safe to say that a career involving personal finance or accounting was not in my future-- it's exactly this line of work that Fisher's Bloomwood alarmingly finds herself in-- advising readers of Successful Saving magazine how to manage their money and understand the lure of a store credit card and initial 0% APR under the pseudonym of "The Girl in the Green Scarf."

Aside from it being a cute moniker to use as she types in a fresh hip style-- sort of like a feminine or flirtatious Dear Abby for the Madison Avenue and Wall Street set in the male dominated world of finance-- the choice not to share her real name in her byline is extremely savvy for two reasons. And selfishly the most primal excuse for Fisher's journalist is that-- as per the case in most chick-lit works-- the magazine scribe Bloomwood longed to join the staff of a Devil Wears Prada a.k.a. Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, or Glamour style magazine with the film's fictitious Alette run by Kristin Scott Thomas in her new, irresistibly funny, sassy French mode. To this end, she realizes that she doesn't want the less-than-chic Saving gig to immediately limit her resume (that also boasts work on a gardening magazine) or have it tied to her name as she aspires to use her position as a stepping stone to move into the publication that's printed by the same company.

However, Bloomwood's second reason for taking the fifth-- or hiding behind that luscious green scarf that led to the first encounter with her would-be editor Luke Brandon (Jane Austen Book Club actor Hugh Dancy) which then led to the cushy assignment in a world where magazines go under every day-- is to stay several dress-lengths ahead of Robert Stanton's merciless collector who's eager to have the shopping addicted Bloomwood settle her roughly seventeen thousand dollars of credit card debt.

Forever dodging Stanton's crafty Derek Smeath-- Bloomwood persuades Luke and her new workplace family that he's a stalker who just can't let their relationship end to hilarious yet admittedly illogical effect. And conveniently she misses him long enough to discover that-- although her own spending is out of control and she's resulted to reading Money for Dummies, trying to follow the advice of a stop spending DVD hosted by Ed Helms and using Google to pad out her stories-- she has a knack for helping others understand their own fiscal situation.

As beautiful as a dress by Vera Wang and as bright as a Marc Jacobs patchwork purse-- Confessions of a Shopaholic dazzles especially in the ridiculously stiletto sharp clarity of Walt Disney Home Entertainment's Touchstone Pictures Blu-ray. And the film from Muriel's Wedding and My Best Friend's Wedding director P.J. Hogan based on two of bestselling author Sophie Kinsella's five books in the Shopaholic series manages to amuse despite its vacuous frivolity and the misfortune of being released not only a few years after the far superior Devil Wears Prada but also in a time of economic recession.

Audiences who've been box office shy anyway and also coolly received the dumbed-down female-centric works like Bride Wars, What Happens in Vegas, The House Bunny, 27 Dresses, He's Just Not That Into You, and Made of Honor which continually casts women in either the pursuit of the right accessory or just the right male form of accessory-- avoided the ill-timed theatrical run of Shopaholic to a large extent. And most likely it's because the last thing you want to do when you can't afford your own credit card bills, rent, or student loan payments is to try and relate to a character who has a job and her health yet rings up couture as though it were nickel cups of Kool-Aid from a child's lemonade stand.

However, much to my surprise and delight, I actually was pleasantly surprised by this adaptation of Shopaholic. While I'd never read any of Kinsella's books in the Becky Bloomwood series and there are some contradictory messages both subtextually and on the surface in this adaptation as our heroine learns she needs to watch her spending yet at the same time marches her dreamy boss into a Prada store-- overall I applauded the attempt to remind viewers that you can't find yourself in a label (even if at times, the movie seems to argue the opposite in its fetishistic handling of designer wear and upscale stores).

Furthermore I must confess that honestly, it'd be nice if we were presented with a heroine not quite as daffy as this Manhattan damsel in distress who comes complete with salt-of-the-Earth parents (Joan Cusack and John Goodman) and a saintly best friend (Kristen Ritter). Still, Isla Fisher who actually studied at a Parisian clown college as part of her performance training is a master at the pratfall and able to pull off that difficult trick of-- instead of piling a bunch of clowns into a car-- making us like Rebecca Bloomwood's warmth and true heart even though there's so much about her personality we just don't understand.

And with this in mind-- despite our enjoyment of the movie-- it's hard to completely forget the real tough facts about debt as it dances (literally with a fan in one of Isla Fisher's funniest moments) over the devastating truth that shopping addiction can be as catastrophic as any other. Thus instead it uses the idea for laughs in some over-the-top shopaholic anonymous meetings and via some cat-fights involving women who wield credit cards like weapons whenever there's a sale. So by trying to make the movie more escapist than sociological-- which definitely wouldn't have been appropriate for Disney nor a Jerry Bruckheimer production (he was responsible for such ahem "strong female?" works such as Coyote Ugly and Flashdance after all)-- the focus is shifted from Successful Saving to watching our heroine ditch the money man.

However, it still remains mindlessly fun entertainment despite some flaws and my fear that in lieu of an ultimately good message-- I think young girls will still want to look like Rebecca Bloomwood in Gucci and Zac Posen among others, not understanding the joke that those really responsible for her attire were Master Card, Visa, American Express and Discover among others who make those irresistible magic cards-- bankruptcy and personal relationships be damned.

A great deal of the film's charm is owed to Fisher who consistently seems to be on the verge of the A-list with wonderful work in movies such as this one (arguably her biggest star vehicle), the bittersweet romantic comedy drama Definitely Maybe, Wedding Crashers and others. Overall, she's beautiful, bubbly, and willing to unleash her "inner idiot"-- as she calls it-- to make us laugh with the confidence to switch from drama to comedy when her partner Sacha Baron Cohen (a.k.a. Borat or Bruno) suggested she should audition for those films. And the movie is always elevated by Fisher who pitched her own jokes despite the fact that she was five months pregnant while meeting the filmmakers during the casting process and her investment in making Bloomwood lovably funny is Shopaholic's saving grace. Frequently it is Fisher as Bloomwood who manages to draw our attention no matter how much eye candy, Fashion Week wear, historical New York buildings, Miami scenery, or shots of the yummy Hugh Dancy are included in the same frame.

Overall it's a typically exceptional Disney Blu-ray with an impressive soundtrack and the sharpest of clarity in a package that also comes with a Digital Copy of the film. And while the extra features including unfunny bloopers, music videos, and deleted scenes are easy to skip-- fashionistas will want to explore the super short exploration of the film's amazing costumes and couture courtesy of designer Patricia Field whose taste in wardrobe is unparalleled, having also worked on Devil Wears Prada and both the film and television versions of Sex and the City.