Journalist Becky Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) gets the same rush from clothes and accessory shopping that most people get from sex. Becky is so immersed in her relentless pursuit of designer clothes that she now sees shop mannequins come to life who, like the Sirens of Greek mythology, urge her to buy that perfect scarf or handbag. However, before too long Rebecca has maxed out all her credit cards, is on the run from a debt collector and is seriously broke. When she misses out on her dream job writing for a fashion magazine she accidentally bluffs her way into a job writing for a financial magazine where she catches the eye of her boss Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy). Loosely based on the first two novels from UK writer Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, Confessions of a Shopaholic is part romantic-comedy and part fish-out-of-water film in a very similar vein to The Devil Wears Prada and How to Lose Friends & Alienate People. There is nothing particularly original or surprising about the way this film develops, but its light-hearted anti-consumerist message is sincere and its strong comedic female characters are fun caricatures rather than offensive stereotypes.
The key ingredient to what makes Confessions of a Shopaholic so enjoyable is Isla Fisher’s performance as Becky. Her potential was evident in all her scene-stealing moments in Wedding Crashers but as the lead in Confessions of a Shopaholic Fisher truly demonstrates her potential to become a prominent comedic actor. She has great comic timing, her delivery is razor sharp and she can fully inhabit space in order to perform physical comedy. Fisher makes appearing delightful and funny onscreen look easy.
Australian director P.J. Hogan is at his best when he mixes the froth of the romantic-comedy genre with material that is a little edgier or tinged with sadness. He did this most successfully in Muriel’s Wedding and then to a lesser degree in his first Hollywood film My Best Friend’s Wedding. Confessions of a Shopaholic is far lighter and fluffier than both of these films but beneath the broad comedy it still contains a few swipes at the financial sector as well as examining the characteristics of addictive behaviour.
Claims that Confessions of a Shopaholic is an appallingly timed endorsement of consumerism is a classic example of simplistic and lazy film criticism that makes a snap judgement without actually examining what the film is trying to say. The fact that Confessions of a Shopaholic is hardly a complex or ambiguous film makes this failure even more pronounced. Confessions of a Shopaholic is not a profound message film but Becky’s shopping is portrayed as a pathological disorder that, just like in the case of other forms of addiction, begins to destructively intrude on her personal and professional life. This is a film that is completely suitable for the times and its hopeful message suggests that people can learn the difference between cost and worth.