Wednesday, March 27, 2013

# 89: Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)

Codename: Green Scarf

Director: P.J. Hogan
Type: Chick Flick

Rebecca Bloomwood- Isla Fisher
Luke Brandon- Hugh Dancy
Suze- Krysten Ritter
Alette Naylor- Kristen Scott Thomas
Alica Billington- Leslie Bibb
Edgar West- John Lithgow
Miss Korch (Head of Shopaholics Anonymous)- Wendie Malick
Graham Bloomwood- John Goodman
Jane Bloomwood- Joan Cusack

[Note: This will be one of two entries I’ll be doing this week, the latter coming out Friday]
beware the spoilers


Often times, there are movies I want to see that aren’t reviewed well in theaters and take a few extra years to come to cable. Either it’ll be something I love and it’s well worth the wait, or it’ll be something that had me wondering what I was thinking and glad I didn’t waste money on a movie ticket.
I saw this as a movie that would determine whether Isla Fisher could make it in a starring role after she stole our hearts in “Wedding Crashers.” To my knowledge, she hasn’t gotten any big roles since this, but I adored her so much in this role that it really doesn’t matter.
Rebecca Bloomwood is one of those characters you want to see succeed no matter what comes her way. It’s a chick flick through and through, focused on all the usual girl troubles, but its writing is what stands out to me. It’s funny and quirky, going a number of places most of these types of movies don’t tend to go. Her biggest flaw is front and center (it’s in the title, for crying out loud) and amazingly (this is meant as sarcasm as well as honest to God truth), all of the bits and pieces of the plot go on to reflect that.

Her initial goal is to write for Alette magazine, run by one of the biggest fashion icons this fictional NYC has. Naturally, on the way to this interview, she sees something she HAS to buy—a green scarf. When her credit card is declined, she offers to buy out a hotdog stand to get change to pay for the scarf, claiming it’s for a dying aunt. A nice, handsome guy offers to help her out and she manages to buy the scarf. Unfortunately, this delay causes her to miss out on the interview. Thankfully (otherwise we wouldn’t have much of a plot, would we?), the receptionist directs her towards a financial magazine called Successful Savings, explaining it could serve as a launch point to get her into Alette.

Although it pains me to admit this, I don’t know who the receptionist is or what he is credited as. We only see him once and I thought he was such a great character, both in his attitude and also this bit of logical advice he gives Rebecca. He kind of reminded me of Stanley Tucci’s character in “The Devil Wears Prada,” serving a similar purpose, but in much smaller capacity.

So at Successful Savings, lo and behold, she meets Luke Brandon, the guy she met at the hotdog stand and he discovers that she lied about the green scarf. Only in a movie would this happen, especially in a place like NYC where there are literally thousands of people. Then when she sends her resume to Alette and a complaint letter to the guy at Successful Savings, somehow the wrong letter gets to the wrong place. Strangely enough, she is hired at Successful Savings under what one might call false pretenses.
Of course her best friend, Suze, finds a lot of humor in the situation, as does the audience. I mean, we’re talking about a shopaholic writing for a magazine that advises people how to deal with money problems. Meanwhile, she is being actively pursued by debt collector Derek Smeath. You think it’s bad when debt collectors won’t stop calling, this guy exhibits stalker-like behavior, even staking out her house in an attempt to talk to her. It literally gets to the point where he has his own “ringtone,” which is a recording of her saying “Don’t answer this call, it’s Derek Smeath.”

A lot of the dialogue and plot points practically write themselves and it’s all in good fun. Anyone who say the trailer would remember her confessing to Hugh Dancy: “Yes, I googled.” All of the articles she wrote as “the girl with the green scarf,” or whatever we hear in the voiceovers, were these cool analogies that she learned from years of being a shopaholic. She knows her stuff so well because she lives it. And part of the fun is the fact that hundreds of times, you feel like the jig might be up, but Rebecca continues to wiggle her way out of her predicaments. That luck does eventually run out, however.

Aside from the budding romance between her and Hugh Dancy and dodging confrontation from Derek Smeath, you also get an interesting slice of life from her meetings at Shopaholics Anonymous. It really says something about a character when their confessions lead to the person in charge of the group falling off the wagon.
This is where Wendie Malick’s character comes in, not only taking the reigns of the group, but her involvement causes another piece of Rebecca’s world to dissolve, adding to the 3rd act downward spiral. Suze is getting married and of course wants Rebecca to be her maid of honor. The same day she picked up her bridesmaid’s dress, she also picked up a purple dress for a talk show appearance she has. The people at Shopaholics Anonymous “help” her give away what they presume to be her "latest purchases" to good will, leaving her with only enough cash to buy back one thing—yeah, take one guess why that friendship falls apart.

More or less, Rebecca’s true “identity” as a shopaholic comes to light. This causes the natural falling out between her and Luke and she is fired from the magazine. But even when Alette herself offers Rebecca a position with her magazine, she turns it down.
In fact, she decides to change her life. She auctions all of her clothes to get Derek Smeath off her back about the debt. We have a bittersweet moment when her green scarf is sold, but of course, Luke Brandon is the one who bought it. All of the pieces fit together, everyone gets exactly what they wanted and we have our happy ending.

For the most part, this movie got very negative reviews in the box office. Heck, I don’t think our local paper even consented to give it a review. Underneath the summary of it, it just said “review not available.” From a certain point of view, I can understand why, but a lot of my favorites run like that. I like them specifically because they appeal to me in some way. As I’ve stated a few times, the writing is great, really witty and quirky. (And for the record, I have not read the Sophie Kinsella novel it’s based on, but perhaps I should). There are quite a few lovable characters in this in various capacities. Of course, it gets extra points for having Hugh Dancy as our male lead. I hadn’t seen him in anything since “Ella Enchanted” and it was well worth the wait. He looks amazing and sounds even better… gotta love a British accent in the midst of an American-based film. (Ironically, the original novel was set in England).

I'm sure, in some small way, a lot of girls can relate to this movie and can definitely relate to Rebecca Bloomwood. 
I do confess that I can be a shopaholic sometimes... when it comes to certain things. I don't go crazy over clothes and actually, if I spend more than a couple hours clothes shopping, I find department stores pretty suffocating. 
However, bring me to a book store (it saddens me how they're getting fewer by the day) or a place like FYE or Best Buy, you could lose me in there for HOURS without a care in the world. I'd been working on it, getting a little choosier with my purchases, but chances are great that if I have cash burning a hole in my pocket, I'll want to put out the flames ASAP.

Overall, I’d put this in the same class as “The Holiday.” Except replace the warm and fuzzy analogy I drew up with something a little more stimulating, mentally… opposed to strictly emotional connection with the characters.

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