Debt-controllers are also the enemy in Confessions of a Shopaholic, a stupendously tone-deaf comedy that I suspect would be unfunny even to 1) a nation whose economy wasn’t completely in the toilet; or 2) individuals whose daily wardrobe can’t be divided primarily into night pajamas and day pajamas. As a member of both groups, the gist of this Valentine to consumerism escapes me entirely, no matter how breathlessly star Isla Fisher describes the euphoria of sample sales and “magic” credit cards.
Two of Sophie Kinsella’s best-selling novels supply the story, adapted by a trio of scripters and filmed by My Best Friend’s Wedding director P.J. Hogan. Kinsella’s English heroine, Rebecca Bloomwood (Fisher), is now a Manhattan journalist who dreams of working at a fashion mag called Alette but settles for a position at a financial publication run by the same company when her current employer suddenly folds. (“It was my income, Suze! I need my income!” she awkwardly wails to her roommate.)
What’s hilarious about this setup is that Rebecca not only knows zero about finance, she’s also up to her Bambi-brown eyes in debt because of her shopping addiction. But a spec submission, intended for Alette but accidentally sent to hottie Successful Savings editor Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy), lands her a column at the struggling mag. And though this allegedly experienced reporter loudly sharpens her pencil at a staff meeting and turns to Google to find out what Luke means when he asks for an “angle” on a story, that single story ends up saving the magazine and catapults her to rock-star status. Yay!
Unfortunately, Rebecca still can’t make a dent in her $15,000-plus debt, which forces her to tell her new co-workers that a particularly dogged collections agent (Robert Stanton) is actually a stalker ex-boyfriend. She doesn’t like that willowy Alette staffer Alicia (Leslie Bibb) is cozying up to Luke, either. So what’s a stressed-out girl to do but buy more stuff?
The offenses of Confessions of a Shopaholic are legion: As in the equally awful Pink Panther 2, a shocking number of name actors fill degrading supporting roles, including Airplane!’s Julie Hagerty (reduced to such lines as: “I was stalked once…by a dog”), Lynn Redgrave, and Kristin Scott Thomas. (Joan Cusack is also cast as Rebecca’s mom, which in real-world calculations would mean she gave birth at 13.) Hogan adds creepy flourishes such as talking mannequins and a bag that springs open when the expensively outfitted Alicia is introduced. And it would be nearly impossible to squeeze in more clichés—best-friend fights, mistaken identity, knocked-over waiters, and a challenged romance have all been checked off when the movie still has 45 minutes to go.
Worst, though, is Shopaholic’s portrayal of women as easily crazed, irrational dopes. Throngs of ’em screech and fight at sales and drool when Rebecca recounts the thrill of a purchase at a 12-step meeting. (Two men are in attendance, but one’s an effeminate and the other a former NBA star obsessed with watches.) We’re probably supposed to sympathize with Rebecca, but as likable as Fisher is, that’s kind of difficult to do when the woman-child makes one ridiculous mistake after another, whether lying or continuing to spend money she doesn’t have. “When I shop, the world gets better!” Rebecca sighs dreamily. Pay to watch her escapades, however, and you’ll likewise feel buyer’s remorse.