Let me start this review off with a story. One day, I went to the post office, and the person working there said I probably didn't want to buy the last stamps he had in his drawer, because they were candy heart stamps left over from Valentine's Day. My reply: "Are they stamps?" As a guy, I really didn't care what they had on them, as long as they made the letter go from point A to point B, which is why I'll never understand the fashion world.
A functional bag can be had for $50 or less, but there's apparently something magical about a Louis Vuitton bag that allows it to fetch astronomical amounts. Maybe they're a status symbol, but at the same time, when does paying an astronomical amount for a bag when you can get the same thing with "less flair" for several hundred dollars (if not more) less become just a bit silly? That's a fine summary of why men never quite understood most of "Sex and the City" and why the word Prada causes most men to look like they just smelled something unpleasant. We don't understand it and I wouldn't expect most of us ever will.
"Confessions of a Shopaholic" is based on the books by Sophie Kinsella, and while a movie about a woman obsessed with spending massive amounts of money on designer clothes probably doesn't seem like the best idea during this "economic time period", the movie isn't entirely objectionable. The picture stars Isla Fisher as Rebecca Bloomwood, a young woman who has recently graduated college and spends most of her time (and money) on 5th Avenue, turning boutique stores into her fantasy world thanks to a little bit of Visa-powered pixie dust (and if not the Visa-brand pixie dust, there's always the AMEX magic wand.)
One day, the Gucci gates slam shut when the unpleasant reality sets in - she actually has to pay for all the small fortune worth of glam-wear she's obsessively bought ("They said I was a valued customer, and now they give me hate mail", she says.) While the fact that the character didn't seem to realize this doesn't exactly earn sympathy, Fisher's light, sweet performance smooths out some of these issues (which is a real credit to the performance, because it's hard to make this character even remotely sympathetic.)
While Rebecca tries to get a job at a fashion magazine, she instead ends up in the most unlikely of places: a financial magazine that's largely about saving. Not only does she get the unlikely job writing at the financial mag, but she becomes an equally unlikely success, writing under a pseudonym about financial matters in shopping terms. Yet, there's trouble afoot when the debt collector (the villain of the piece) comes after her and threatens to bring down her success. There's also the hint of romance between Rebecca and her editor, Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy), although one has to wonder how long it would last, as Rebecca says, ""A man will never love you or treat you as well as a store."
The movie's problem is that it wants to have its cake and visit Barneys, too. While Fisher's charming performance (somehow) manages to earn a hint of sympathy, there needs a bit more of lesson for the main character (whose obsession with shopping reaches the level where those around her should have sought professional help for her - she does go to a support group, which leads her to the realization that she needs to shop more) than there is.
The picture tries to add a couple of minor, momentary lessons, but the film clearly exists more as a fantasy, with the (loud) outfits of costume designer Patricia Field playing just as much of a character as some of the cast. The whole thing makes me wish "Absolutely Fabulous" was still on the air, as that British series was the only one to pinpoint the absurdity of aspects of high fashion and those who cannot possibly go without following along with whatever the latest fashion trend is - no matter what it is.
In the end, it all comes back to Fisher. I've never really been that impressed with the actress until this movie, as her charming effort and willingness to do physical comedy (which director PJ Hogan also certainly has experience with) makes for an incredibly likable performance that made the movie watchable for me. John Goodman appears in a couple of scenes as Rebecca's father, reprising his role (more or less) in "Confessions" producer Jerry Bruckheimer's "Coyote Ugly".
The rest of the picture is more watchable than I'd have expected, but a touch of reality would have gone a long way towards improving the picture and maybe saying just a little something about the economic situation we're in today.
VIDEO: "Confessions of a Shopaholic" is presented in 2.35:1 by Touchstone Home Video. The transfer is generally above-average, although some mild issues do pop-up at times. Sharpness and detail were respectable, as while the picture does have a glossy (at times slightly soft) appearance, detail still remained at least moderately pleasing throughout most of the running time. A few minor instances of edge enhancement appeared on occasion and some minor traces of pixelation were spotted, but no print flaws were seen. The film's painfully bright color palette looks well-saturated without appearing muddy or smeary.
SOUND: The film offers a straightforward Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, with very limited use of the surrounds. Audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue and bassy music.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes, bloopers and a music video. There's also a second disc with a digital copy for PCs, portable devices and Macs.
Final Thoughts: "Confessions" certainly convinces me that Fisher has star quality, but the movie could have used some work - as the credits roll, it's doubtful Rebecca has truly learned anything (as, after it all, she still smiles at the sight of some red boots in a store window) from the experience. The DVD edition provides satisfactory audio/video quality, and a few slight extras. Rent it.
The Film B-