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Confessions of a Shopaholic: Worth Every Penny

The irony of releasing a movie about shopping right as the nation's economy is flailing is not lost on many. Confessions of a Shopaholic could have probably gone in one of two ways: Exacerbating the general sense of frustration and helplessness, or providing us with a fun, satisfying escapist's jaunt. Thankfully, it's pure escapism — and not just because of the script, which is surprisingly tight, or the editing which makes the narrative clip along briskly, rarely dwelling in sentimentality. No, this movie is wonderful, happy escapism largely because of Isla Fisher in the role of Becky Bloomwood: Bumbling, adorable, joyous shopper extraordinaire.

Fisher plays Rebecca Bloomwood, a journalist with an intense shopping habit. Like a drug addict or alcoholic, she literally appears to have no restraint when it comes to spending money — even when she is thousands of dollars in debt. Her practical friend Suze (Krysten Ritter) tries to help her rethink her financial situation, but Becky's addiction runs deep and it's going to take a great deal to make her hit rock bottom. The stakes are raised when Becky ends up working at a financial magazine — with a dashing cutie of a boss, Luke (Hugh Dancy) — and receives acclaim for being able to explain money matters in layman's terms. But as she gains more fame, an ornery debt collector (Robert Stanton) is hot on her trail, harassing her about her debts and posing a threat to her new image as a sensible financial writer. You'll have to see the film (and I hope you do!) for all of the funny storylines, but for more of my take,


While I enjoyed Sophie Kinsella's novels as silly fluff, I wasn't always very sympathetic toward Becky, and at times I didn't even really like her. But it's impossible not to like Isla's Becky. Even when she's being ridiculous, even when you know full well that her debt crises are disturbingly stupid in comparison to the challenges facing families across the nation right this minute (and challenges they didn't willingly bring upon themselves, as Becky has) — still Becky earns our sympathy with her well-intentioned silliness and her big, teary eyes. Indeed, she is often endearingly naïve — but thankfully, she doesn't stay that way forever. In a scene in which Luke buys Becky a fan, she sifts through the fans with a childlike excitement, trying to decide on one. It's cute — she's so cute — but in this film, at last, childlike behavior has consequences when you're a grown woman. Contrary to what so many movies (particularly modern films aimed at a young female audience) would have us believe, women actually aren't children, and shouldn't be treated as such.

This is the most refreshing difference between this movie and others that are similarly billed — there is at least some recognition that shopping can be meaningless, or an indication of a deeper problem. That it can be a problem at all is a new and shocking concept for this kind of movie. In other similar films there's a smugness, or defiance about the idea of overspending (the kind that's far beyond just treating oneself occasionally), as though there's always a way to excuse it. Finally, here's a story that sheds a humorous light on it, showing how absurd and truly empty it can be.

What's more, there's way more love (and there's more to love) in this movie's "labels and love" theme. Becky earnestly and deeply loves to shop. She visibly enjoys it. Instead of just a montage of wedding dresses for the sole purpose of listing off a bunch of fancy names, there's Becky's lit-up face, her ecstasy at finding wonderful things and buying them. We see how outrageous this can be, instead of the actual suggestion that buying expensive stuff is something we should want to do all the time.

There is also the character of Becky's best friend, Suze, providing a sensible contrast to Becky's blithe ignorance of all things financial. Suze acts as the straight man in many ways, and I found myself grateful for a female voice of reason (and a strong, funny voice of reason, too — not that of the "unattractive," grumpy, manless friend, a device that might (maybe? Hopefully?) be retired for now). Not all women are psychopaths who would physically harm another woman to get a sale; look at the reasonable Suze. But Becky is that hysterical label-hungry woman at times and it's funny to watch. At long last, there is some self-awareness in this kind of story. It's satirical, and it's about damn time.

And still, even as we recognize that we're laughing at Becky's absurd hijinks and over-the-top addiction to the shopper's high, we can't disparage her. She's too damn lovable! Sure, she's materialistic, but she's also vibrantly warm, loyal and pulsing with a bright light. There's so much more to her than just the constant buying of stuff, and by the end of the movie, to our great satisfaction, she learns that, too.

Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Join The Conversation
pharm_chick pharm_chick 8 years
i just watched the movie, and i loved it! the books were awesome too, but in their own way. def worth watching at least once! i have to say tho, she had a ton of clothes and accessories, but most were quite ugly. i wouldnt wear most of the stuff she had. esp the huge anchor necklace!
Chloe-X Chloe-X 8 years
i love the movie! i'm gunna read the books now! x
wendybird33 wendybird33 8 years
Loved the movie!! It was such a feel good film unlike that other one (cough cough he's just not that into you). I was a little bit skeptical at first because they changed so much from the books and they used parts of books 1,2, AND 3 but hey it worked so I can't complain.
nkd064 nkd064 8 years
I've read the entire "shopahollic" series! I love it! I hope the movie lives up to it~ Sophie Kinsella is right on when it comes to our shopping obsessions...
girlgreen girlgreen 8 years
i knew this move would be silly, but i thought it would be silly cute, not silly terrible!! i was totally disappointed. isla was very cute in it, but that still wasn't enough to make it good. i liked he's just not that into you much more. oh well!
crazylovevbug crazylovevbug 8 years
i saw the movie at a screening and have been DYING to see it again. i loved it. and hugh dancy is total eye candy ;).
thetoneishopeful thetoneishopeful 8 years
thanks for the review, Buzz! I'm a huge fan of the book series...and the commenters here are making me mighty sad :(. i know Becky of the novels can be annoying at times, but i think she's charming and the movie, although with a totally different story line which is totally going to bug me, looks equally, if not more charming. I'm already a little disappointed at the casting of Luke but...I guess I"ll just have to go watch it tomorrow...haha. READ THE BOOK SERIES!! :D
GoneZaggyGirl GoneZaggyGirl 8 years
love the books, read them when they first came out and saw the movie tonight... AMAZING. only beef with one scene. seriously can't wait to own it and watch it every single day. YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS
lillovelygrl33 lillovelygrl33 8 years
I've been dying to see this - and I will - but I've been worried about how the translation of Becky being an English girl to a New Yorker works out. I didn't see PS I love You because it was such a funny Irish book then they totally cut that out of the movie. This is going to be just what I need to shake the funk brought on by Chicago winter though!
Chopsuey Chopsuey 8 years
Honestly this film was absolutely terrible and not worth the gas money, rent it. It follows the book for the 1st half and then goes completely haywire. My friends and I were laughing through the whole 2nd half, and trust me I wasn't expecting an oscar worthy film. Isla is about the only thing okay with the film, she was alright, but everything else was just ridculous. Just rent the film and don't waste your time.
genesisrocks genesisrocks 8 years
I'm dying to see this
nessa17 nessa17 8 years
I am going to see it in about 2 hrs. i am so exited and have been waiting for a while. buzz, your review just makes me want to see it more.
kafarine-tin-tin kafarine-tin-tin 8 years
I haven't seen the movie yet so I'm going to avoid reading the review, but can I just say how much I love the first photo in this post. :D
nancita nancita 8 years
Wow, I'm so pleasantly surprised by this review! I had no idea this movie would be smart. Nice surprise after He's Just Not That Into You. I probably won't see Confessions in the theater but sounds like a great netflix.
verr0nica verr0nica 8 years
Those that criticize the movie because of the debt they are in can try to see the value of a movie like this; I loved the book because most people can see themselves in Becky's character, buying because of the mood they are in or because they want tha feeling of instant gratification. It's the same as buying an overpriced home or car you reasonably cannot afford. We have all fallen victim of consumerism and I think this character is an exageration of that weakness of material goods. Most people on this site want the latest products and the beautiful clothes, I am no different. Because this economy is doing so bad, it can help us get some perspective on whats important.
BabyNorbert BabyNorbert 8 years
I can't wait to see this movie - my friend and I have a "girl date" to go see it... to bad we have to wait a while (I'm from Denmark and the movie is coming out here in March - I think) I love Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy, but none of them are anything like the way I visioned Becky and Luke though that might be a good thing - this way I can separate the movie from the books! I agree with emms - why couldn't Becky be British???
emms emms 8 years
Thanks for the great review, Buzz! I'm obsessed with the books and have been counting the days for this to come out. But, I was slightly skeptical due to changes between the book and movie. Mainly, the blasphemy of Becky not being British. But I'm no longer worried!
Liss1 Liss1 8 years
I can't wait to see this movie. Hopefully going one day next week with a friend. I love Isla!
Celebrity Celebrity 8 years
Love Isla! Enjoyed the book and can't wait to see the movie. So glad you liked it Buzz. i am even more excited to see it now.
Edie-J-Blige Edie-J-Blige 8 years
Thanks for expanding on your review, Buzz, I'm even more intrigued now! It's great to know that this character actually grows and learns more about herself, her career dreams, and her relationships (beyond the one she has with a hunky guy), especially because that is something the target audience, women in their 20s and 30s can actually relate to. Not to mention relating to spending money frivolously and understanding the consequences later....I for one am guilty of that :( I was a little disappointed to see Isla pick up this role at first because I thought she might be selling out her true talent for comedy to try and make herself into the next Sarah Jessica Parker, but it sounds like she and the writers really made this movie genuine and kept in mind that women's brains actually ARE bigger than their credit cards. And thanks for the lengthy reply -- you are actually the only movie critic I listen to anymore, none of the others have a lick of sense. You saved me and my friends from "He's just not that into you"!
Entertainment Entertainment 8 years
Haha, wow that was long ^ ^. Maybe I should have just PMed you... :) Oh, and I wanted to add that I think the trailer may be misleading in some ways. I had no idea the movie would have so much heart (because as Nitachequita mentioned, Isla's character does seem kinda shrill and annoying in the trailer).
Entertainment Entertainment 8 years
Edie J Blige — I was exactly where you are with my reservations about the movie before I saw it. If it were the same old dumb movie in which everything's hunky-dory for this person who is so careless with her money, I'd be annoyed. But she really does learn a lesson and she changes and grows. And there are also her parents (John Goodman and Joan Cusack) who are these very normal, very frugal people who are so funny and real and don't have the money to bail out their kid, but they help her in other ways — that is really refreshing, too. There's obviously a fantasy element to the whole thing, but it's also largely about friends and family and being honest. And I appreciated that there actually are consequences to her actions — including the mistakes she makes with her career. They don't just forgive her everything because she's got a cute giggle. And she realizes what she wants in a career, and what's really important to her and the outcome of that surprised me. It's not a masterpiece work of art or anything, but especially for this genre I found it refreshing and funny. :)
Nitachequita Nitachequita 8 years
Hmm, interesting. The trailer looks terrible and Isla is just so shrill and annoying throughout it. But I may give it a chance if Buzz liked it.
Edie-J-Blige Edie-J-Blige 8 years
Buzz -- you point several times in your review that Isla Fisher is lovable, and ok, I buy that. But it's just hard for me to rationalize seeing this movie for that alone, because from the trailer it just looks so silly. I mean, as you said, it is in the vein of movies where women are down in the dumps and get a makeover and tra-la-la, all their problems are solved. It honestly kind of irked me to think of watching a movie about someone mindlessly blowing their money who knows nothing about anything besides shopping, and then lands a job in the financial journalism industry, easy-as-pie, where she of course meets a hunky dream man. So my question to you is, what else does this movie have to its plot? Is the story just "girl shops, girl gets job, girl learns lesson, girl gets guy?" or does it veer off the straight and narrow? I would love to hear more...
serenavallentine serenavallentine 8 years
i have a valentine's date to see this with my best girl friend. we are so excited as we both devoured the novels. :) i'm excited tohear that it's charming and not just cheesy. i love isla fisher and was hoping for the best!
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