Touchstone Pictures // 2009 // 105 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // June 23rd, 2009
All she ever wanted was a little credit...
I'm the opposite of a shopaholic, especially where fashion is concerned, so it's not surprising that I've never taken the opportunity to read through the popular Shopaholic novels by Sophie Kinsella. Given their popularity, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood saw fit to bring them to the big screen. Confessions of a Shopaholic is based on the first two books, falling proudly into the Sex and the City lineage of a women in Manhattan with a taste for expensive fashion trying to make a name for themselves. Although it's not likely to become a classic, with a solid Blu-ray release Confessions of a Shopaholic is worth a look for most romantic comedy fans.
Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher, Hot Rod) is a young journalist in Manhattan with a taste for expensive clothes and a massive amount of credit card debt. Her dream is to work for Alette magazine, the major fashion outlet for the world. Sadly, she can't get her foot in the door, but thanks to a mix-up she gets hired at Successful Saving, a financial magazine, where editor Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy, King Arthur) gives her a column entitled "The Girl with the Green Scarf." Her work is an instant hit, and things seem to be going well with Luke, but her insane need to shop and mounting debt are increasingly affecting her life.
In my experience there are three kinds of romantic comedies. The first are those run-of-the-mill crapfests the studios churn out as counter-programming to Oscar-contenders or tent-pole summer movies. On the other extreme are the classic romantic comedies which transcend their genre conventions and become cinematic touchstones (like When Harry Met Sally). In the middle are those romantic comedies which are solid examples of the form, but don't have the strength or originality to break free of the genre. Confessions of a Shopaholic is firmly in the middle.
Lots of romantic comedies have a "concept" they use to organize the plot (and usually revealed in the title), whether it's You've Got Mail or 27 Dresses. Confessions is no different, and it's central conceit is a cute one. Having a Carrie Bradshaw-esque young woman with massive debt (about 16 grand) give financial advice in the form of tips for fashion shopping is actually pretty beautiful. It brings her naturally into contact with an attractive man (her editor, Luke), gives her a natural enemy (the debt collector Mr Smeath), and as the pressure of her debt mounts the situation gives her an increasingly obvious reason for the wacky shenagigans that many romantic comedies revel in. It's also a natural fish-out-of-water story as the ditzy shopper is initiated into the world of finance, with both worlds learning a thing or two.
Confessions of a Shopaholic also does an effective job balancing the central conceit with enough subplots to keep things interesting without overflowing anything. In addition to her job as a writer and her relationship with her editor, Rebecca's best friend and roommate is getting married, and Rebecca's problems create increasing tension between them, which motivates our heroine to attend Shopaholics Anonymous. Her frugal, unfashionable parents also provide another subplot, and of course along the way Ms. Bloomwood learns the value of friends and family, like all good romantic comedy heroines must.
All this plays out with a solid group of actors. Isla Fisher as Rebecca Bloomwood is perky and likeable, but also believably daft about many things. Hugh Dancy is charming as Luke, one of the few men I can recall in a romantic comedy who doesn't seriously screw up his chances with the lady fair at some point during the film. Krysten Ritter plays the roommate/best friend, and she's the perfect embodiment of tough love and support towards Rebecca, without ever drifting into sanctimonious. Finally, Joan Cusack and John Goodman play Rebecca's square parents pefectly, looking exactly like the stereotypical lower-middle class suburban couple.
If Rebecca Bloomwood was into movies, Confessions of a Shopaholic is a Blu-ray she would want to pick up. The audiovisual presentation is solid, and the extras, though a bit fluffy, are pretty good. The video transfer looks pretty good, with strong detail in most scenes and a lack of serious compression problems. The audio keeps everything balanced, and both dialogue and music are clear.
Extras include a number of Blu-ray exclusive features, the highlight of which is a behind the scenes featurette covering the creation of the film. There are also a pair of exclusive music videos to join the one included on the standard def release. Also ported over from the DVD are the bloopers and deleted scenes. None of this is particularly earth shattering, but fans of the film will find something to enjoy. The second disc contains a digital copy for fans of that feature.
There's nothing particularly new or groundbreaking about this film and, if you're not predisposed to romantic comedies, it's not worth the effort. The astute viewer can guess the vast majority of the film's plot points just from reading the basic premise, and although there's pleasure in the journey, the laughs don't come thick or fast enough to tempt anyone who isn't already willing to enjoy a romantic comedy.
My only complaint about the Blu-ray is that I'd have loved a commentary by the author of the books, especially in concert with Isla Fisher. I know that it's often a dicey proposition to involve a book author with the film adaptation, but I think it would have been interesting.
Confessions of a Shopaholic is an above-average romantic comedy that isn't quite original enough to become a classic, but certainly deserves to be seen by fans of the genre. This solid Blu-ray from Touchstone Pictures offers an effective audiovisual presentation and some light extras, so it's easy to recommend to fans of the books or rom-coms in general. Those recovering from a shopping addiction are urge to stay far away.
Even though she confessed, this Shopaholic is not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2009 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* Music Videos
* Digital Copy