Stuck at home with nowhere to go? Perhaps a movie could take you out of your house with one of their distant locations. ‘To Touchstone and Beyond’ is looking at movies that’s setting is a famous destination. Sit back and stroll through the streets of New York City with 2009’s Confessions of a Shopaholic from Touchstone Pictures.

The Movie

Rebecca Bloomwood, played by Isla Fisher, is an aspiring fashion journalist who has a serious problem. She is a shopaholic. To Rebecca, shopping is a magical experience. Since she was a child Rebecca viewed a credit card as a magical item that allowed her access to have all the wonderful things she ever wanted. The problem for the adult Rebecca is that she has a dozen credit cards, a sizable debt, and debt collector on her tail.

Living with her best friend Suze, played by Krysten Ritter, Rebecca is in the middle of a career change. Trying to land a job at a top fashion magazine, she ends up working for a finance magazine headed by Luke Brandon, played by Hugh Dancy. Using her fashion sense, Rebecca creates a column for the magazine called ‘The Girl with the Green Scarf’ using fashion focused narratives to explain complex finance issues. Her column attracts an audience that brings Rebecca fame.

Her shopping habit is exacerbated by the fame, forcing Rebecca to break into her emergency credit card in order to buy a new outfit for a very important television interview. Fame is fleeting, and despite a romance with Luke, Rebecca’s world comes crashing down. On the cusp of gaining a dream job with Alette Naylor, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, Rebecca’s debt is exposed on television. Her financial credibility is tarnished. Luke is upset that she lied to him. Suze has left because Rebecca sold her bridesmaid dress she was to wear to Suze’s wedding, and her job is terminated.

Luke faces his own problems at the magazine. The owner, Edgar West, played by John Lithgow, is disappointed in the negative media, but likes Luke. West is willing to start a new magazine with Luke as the manager, but Luke has other ideas. Seeded by an idea from Rebecca, Luke quits to forge his own path.

Rebecca is struggling in the fallout. She attends support group meetings, and spends time with her parents, played by John Goodman and Joan Cusack. Rebecca decides that she needs to get her life in order. Despite the joy brought by her purchased items, Rebecca uses ‘The Girl in the Green Scarf’ fame to her advantage. She hosts a sale of her items which brings every bargain hunter in New York City out. Everything is for sale, including her trademark green scarf. Rebecca has made more than enough money to cover her fifteen-thousand-dollar debt. She buys back the bridesmaid dress for Suze’s wedding and both friends reconcile.

Finally, Rebecca Bloomwood has her life in order. She can walk by the big expensive stores of New York City with the mannequins beckoning her to shop but Rebecca keeps on walking and runs into Luke once more.

The Best

Krysten Ritter is wonderful as the supporting friend Suze. To her, Rebecca is a good person who needs help, and Suze is always there for her. From lying on the phone to the debt collector, to helping buy the bridesmaid dress for Rebecca, Suze is a great friend. Krysten Ritter makes this character stand out.

John Goodman has only a few minutes of screen time as Rebecca’s father Graham, but he makes the most of it. After Rebecca is exposed on national television for her massive debt, Graham has a heart to heart with Rebecca. Goodman’s skill as an actor with just a few short sentences shines in the film allowing us to see how caring Rebecca’s parents are about her health and happiness. Graham offers to sell their RV to help Rebecca pay her debt. Rebecca says no and the idea is stopped there. It’s a short father daughter moment that gives some reality to the movie.  

The Worst

The script for the film portrays Rebecca Bloomwood as an obsessive clothes horse, who has a genuine addiction problem that is treated as a joke. Played for laughs, the audience is meant to see Rebecca smashing open her emergency credit card, hidden in the freezer, as something funny. The movie makes light of her compulsive addiction that can be easily solved.

Hugh Dancy is a great actor who has accomplished a lot in his career, but he is given nothing to do with the role of Luke Brandon. His dialogue is flat, the romantic interest he has for Rebecca is obvious, but their relationship lacks any chemistry because the script doesn’t serve either actors well.

Joan Cusack is a background character who has nothing to say. Cusack deserved more and should have been given the heartfelt moment like Goodman has about selling the RV to help Rebecca. Instead, Cusack is forced to portray a caricature of silliness.

Isla Fisher is perfectly cast as Rebecca Bloomwood. At the worst parts of the movie, Fisher still holds the audience’s attention, and makes the most of what she has been given. Sadly, it feels like Confessions of a Shopaholic was attempting to portray the same vibe as Sex and the City, which is like comparing apples to oranges.

 

Film Facts

  • The movie is produced by famed action producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
  • The book series that this film is based on has as of this date published nine books written by Madeline Wickham aka Sophie Kinsella.
  • The first book in the series was based in London, but the setting was changed to New York because it was believed the book would appeal more to American audiences.
  • Shopaholic is not the proper medical term for the behavior Rebecca exhibits in the film. The clinical term is oniomania.
  • Apparently, Isla Fisher wore five-inch stiletto heels throughout the production.
  • Reese Witherspoon reportedly turn down the role of Rebecca Bloomwood because it was too much like her Legally Blonde character Elle Woods.
  • If you are thinking Joan Cusack is a little young to play Rebecca’s mom, you would be right. Cusack is only fourteen years older than Isla Fisher.
  • Director P.J. Hogan also directed the Julia Roberts blockbuster comedy, My Best Friend’s Wedding.

See It/Skip It?

Skip It! I would love to say that Confessions of a Shopaholic is a hilarious farce that will entertain you in your COVID-19 isolation, but it won’t. I would love to say that you will at least have some semblance of a trip to New York City, but you won’t. Even though it was shot on location the viewer sees little of the familiar sights you would see when visiting the Big Apple. Listening to my wife tell me about what was in the books compared to the movie, I feel like Confessions of a Shopaholic may have suffered in the adaptation from page to screen.

Next week on ‘To Touchstone and Beyond’ continuing with our travel theme, we look at Diane Lane’s Under the Tuscan Sun.

Director: P.J. Hogan

Production Company: Touchstone Pictures

Principal Cast:

  • Isla Fisher as Rebecca Bloomwood
  • Hugh Dancy as Luke Brandon
  • Krysten Ritter as Suze
  • John Goodman as Graham Bloomwood
  • Joan Cusack as Jane Bloomwood
  • John Lithgow as Edgar West
  • Fred Armisen as Ryan Koenig
  • Kristin Scott Thomas as Alette Naylor

Release Date: February 13, 2009

Box Office Gross Domestic = $44,277,350

                      Worldwide = $108,394,089