Compared to The Devil Wears Prada (2006), it feels like a cheap knock-off.

James Plath's picture

At one point in this romantic comedy from director P.J. Hogan ("Muriel's Wedding"), the heroine turns to her boss/love interest and says, somewhat shocked, "You speak Prada?" They were shopping together, and she was clearly thinking he wasn't up to speed. Curiously, that's what I thought about "Confessions of a Shopaholic" (2009). Compared to "The Devil Wears Prada" (2006), it feels like a cheap knock-off. It's not as smart or fashionable, and there's just something about anything "aholic" that's a little sad and pathetic--two things that make it difficult for an audience to be charmed by or identify with her.

I've never read the series of books by Sophie Kinsella that inspired this film, so I can't say whether something was lost in translation. And in fairness, Confessions of a Shopaholic did come out in trade paperback in 2001, two years before Lauren Weisberger's novel, The Devil Wears Prada. But the main character in "Shopaholic," Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher, "Wedding Crashers"), is more annoying than endearing. Whether she's as written in the novel, as altered in the script by Tracey Jackson and Tim Firth, the result of Hogan's direction, or Fisher's initiative, the character comes across more like Dorothy in a fashion-world Oz than a career woman with a dream . . . and an addiction that at first feeds the dream, then starves it. She's just a little too Gomer Pyle wide-eyed for someone who's been in New York for five years, and a little too clueless about journalism for someone who's been working in the field for that same length of time. Heck, I have interns who come across as being more professional and knowledgeable. That's my chief complaint about this film. I'm one of those rare males who actually likes romantic comedies, and I was ready and willing to be swept away by this one. But the main character was too damned annoying to land any sort of job, much less the boss (yes, there's a little of "Bridget Jones' Diary" in this film as well).

Rebecca wants to land a dream job with Alette magazine (run by Alette), something she's fantasized about since she was 14. But she loses out to an internal hire who's more glam and more bam when it comes to playing the game. Suze (Krysten Ritter) treats poor little Rebecca with an "Ugly Betty" disdain, but Rebecca learns that there's a job opening at a sister publication, Successful Saving, and that once you get your foot in the door you can move to Alette. Of course, Rebecca knows nothing about saving. En route to the interview she was captivated by another sale and decided to purchase a green scarf . . . using a combination of cash and five different credit cards. Yes, she's maxed out, and owes more than $16,000. Unable to make payments, she's dodging a tenacious bill collector named Derek Smeath (Robert Stanton). How much of a shopaholic is she? When her card is declined and she has to have that scarf, she runs to the nearest hot dog vendor, pushes to the front of the line, and offers to write a check for all 90-some hot dogs if he'll give her the cash back she's short to buy her precious scarf. The next man in line gives her the $20. And, no surprise, he turns out to be Luke Brandon, the editor at Successful Saving with whom she's to have her interview. In this fantasy world, borrowing $20 from a stranger to buy a scarf for a sick aunt and then being caught in a lie is, combined with a demonstrated lack of finance knowledge, enough to land her the job. Apparently Brandon thinks she can be the Carrie Bradshaw of personal finance.

Her first column, written under the moniker "The Girl in the Green Scarf" (we're supposed to ignore the sexist language) becomes an international sensation, and that fame makes it hard for her to hide from her debt-ridden past. I'm not spoiling anything. The way this is structured, you know there'll be a moment of truth. Along the way, you hope that funny situations, clever lines, and interesting character interaction will put some meat on these fashion bones, but "Confessions of a Shopaholic" just doesn't rank with the heavyweights of romantic comedy, and for this there's enough blame to go around. There wasn't much chemistry between the romantic leads, and John Goodman and Joan Cusack seemed bizarre choices to play Rebecca's parents, with neither of the actors able to do much with their roles. And Alette (Kristin Scott Thomas) isn't nearly as fearsome as the top fashion dog in "The Devil Wears Prada" or "Ugly Betty." Even John Lithgow as a suit seems like he's going through the motions, and it's because of the lines and scenes, not his acting ability. Look for Lynn Redgrave to liven things up as a cheery drunk at a dance, and get ready to laugh your tokus off when the stars try a Latin dance and Rebecca gets a little slap-happy with her Spanish fan. But there aren't enough moments like that to make this more of a delight than a drudgery.

I didn't see any artifacts or excessive processing in the AVC/MPEG-4 transfer, which offers sharp detail, bright colors (sometimes a little too bright), and black levels that are a little wanting in spots. The level of 3-dimensionality is average for a Blu-ray, and that's pretty much how I'd describe the overall picture quality. "Confessions of a Shopaholic" is presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio.

So much of the English DTS-HD 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) featured soundtrack is center-speaker heavy that when the rear effects speakers do kick in, they draw attention to themselves. Ambient noise isn't exactly believable, though that's probably in the sound mix rather than the transfer. Dialogue is crisp and clear, but this isn't a dynamic audio track. Neither, of course, are the French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 options. Subtitles are in English SDH, French, and Spanish. As with the visuals (and the film itself), it's a pretty average presentation.

Aside from a Digital Copy, there aren't a whole lot of extras, and when that happens you have to wonder if no one wanted to talk about it, if they knew that the final result wasn't exactly a masterpiece. There are roughly six and a half minutes of deleted scenes, two minutes of bloopers, three music videos ("Accessory" by Jordyn Taylor, "Takes Time to Love" by Trey Songz, and "Stuck with Each Other" by Shontelle and Akon), and six mini features: "Wardrobe by Patricia Field" (3 min.), "Temple of Shopping" (2.5 min.), "The Green Scarf" (1.5 min.), "New York Fashion Central" (2.5 min.), "Sample Sale Madness" (2 min.), and "Window Shopping" (2 min.). For shopaholics, there's also a $10.00 fashion cash card (while supplies last) that can be used as a $10 off coupon on an order from a fashion store that's out of my price range.

Bottom Line:
Isla Fisher gives it all she's got, and Hugh Dancy does his best, but the parts never come together to make "Confessions of a Shopaholic" a zinger of a romantic comedy.


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