For the life of me, I can’t figure out what age-group Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009) was actually aimed at… I mean, at first glance all the characters appear to be grown-ups, but their shameless mugging and pantomime slapstick makes the acting in some of the kid’s movies I’ve seen recently look positively nuanced and naturalistic by comparison. Eeesh!
For those who don’t know, this consumerist rom-com stars Isla Fisher as ‘Rebecca Bloomwood’, a raging shopaholic and compulsive liar, whose frenzy for fancy fashion has caused her to run up a massive credit card debt, which she can never hope to pay off with the measly wage she earns as a journalist for a gardening magazine… in fact, she’s so stony broke she regularly screws her flatmate/best friend ‘Suze’ (Krysten Ritter) out of her share of the rent. Apparently we’re supposed to find Rebecca adorable because she’s so cute and ditsy, but she’s actually quite abhorrent under all the fluff. Don’t get me wrong, as someone who owns all six seasons of Sex and the City, I have a fairly high tolerance for fashionistas swooning over shiny shoes and declaring that buying Vogue is more important than buying food… but Carrie Bradshaw was far wittier and more self-aware than Rebecca is, and while it was never explained exactly how she was able to afford all of the clothes in her overstuffed closet, it was at least understood that she could. I can’t even be bothered summarising the rest of the plot, because it’s far too ludicrous to go into… if it wasn’t for the fantastic cast, and my own weird masochistic tendencies, I would have bailed on this nonsense long before Rebecca got her unlikely break as an economic idiot savant for “Successful Savings” magazine.
I’m not sure I’ve seen Fisher in anything else since the good old days of Home and Away, and it’s hard to judge her performance here because the character is so inherently annoying. I was also distracted during the early scenes by a nagging sense of “deja vu”, as I kept trying to figure out who she reminded me of, until I finally put my finger on it: Anna Faris. This would have been a perfect role for Faris, in the sense that it plays to a lot of her strengths as a comedic actress… although I don’t really mean that as a slight on Fisher. I think she did just as good a job as Faris would have done with this script… but considering how shoddy the script was, I’m not sure that’s really much of a compliment. It was a shame to see Ritter over-egging the “giddy girly” side of her character, and when she was called on to act broken-hearted and betrayed, her performance seemed a little too raw and honest for the scene she was in… so my overall takeaway from this is that she’s a very good actress, who was hobbled by crappy material.
They try to sell Leslie Bibb’s character, ‘Alicia Billington’, as the villain of the piece, and it’s true that she’s no angel, but she still comes across as far more scrupulous and sympathetic than the supposed heroine! She also has Bettie Page bangs, which automatically makes her a winner in my book. Joan Cusack is far too young (and far too talented!) to be playing Rebecca’s mother, but it’s always nice to see her do her thing, even when she’s woefully underused. Kristin Scott Thomas is fast becoming one of my fave actresses, and her turn here as ‘Alette Naylor’, the amoral editor of a fashion magazine Rebecca aspires to work for, was probably the highlight of the movie for me… especially in the scene where Cusack is trying to serve her some cake, and she keeps asking for a thinner slice. Not sure what her French friends made of her accent here though… sounded a bit over-exaggerated to me!
There were too many overqualified actresses filling supporting roles here for me to identify them all by name, but I used to have a huge crush on Clea Lewis, back when she was on the sitcom Ellen, so it was great to see her again, playing ‘Miss Ptaszinski’, the first leader of Rebecca’s “Shopaholics Anonymous” support group… and Wendie Malick, who was incredible in Just Shoot Me, plays her replacement, ‘Miss Korch’. Meanwhile, I didn’t manage to make it through many full episodes of Accidentally on Purpose, but I did grow quite fond of Lennon Parham, who plays Rebecca’s “soul-sister” ‘Joyce’ here.