x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Whatever Confessions of a Shopaholic is trying to do, it is all must too much yesterday.


Conspicuous consumerism is just so 2007, which explains why Confessions of a Shopaholic feels dated. Released in America and Britain in February, it prompted furious words from critics all frothing at the film's indelicate topic - that of needless extravagance. Shot before the recession hit and lacking any reference to the crisis, the film's endless shots of shopping bags, designer stores and credit cards were, for some, too much to bear. In an attempt to end the carping, the film's producer and financial backer, Jerry Bruckheimer, swore that there had never been a better time for such a parable.

Were the film any good, that might be true. But as it is, the 94 minutes we spend watching the film's lead character, Rebecca Bloomwood (Fisher), feel approximately 93 minutes too long. Fisher is a flame-haired actress who used to be known as Shannon in the Australian soap Home And Away, and is now more commmonly referred to as the other half of Sacha Baron Cohen, or as he is currently known, Bruno.

Here she plays a financially-incontinent journalist, the sort of woman who just can't pass a shoe shop without busting out her American Express. "Isn't that the best feeling in the world," muses our heroine at one point, discussing the point at which one of her 12 credit cards is swiped and approved in a store. "A store can awaken a lust for things you didn't even know you needed," she says at another. Trouble is, her spending has landed her in $9,000 (Dh33,000) worth of debt, thanks to all the whispering, moving mannequins that seem to inhabit the shops she visits.

At this point, like a thirsty desert camel, we gratefully stumble on an amusing scene. Cue laughter. Here, Rebecca and her best friend, Suze (Krysten Ritter) go through the bills late one night and work out a fuzzy action plan. Even though Rebecca has lost her job at a gardening magazine, she will write a letter to the editor of the Vogue-like Alette magazine comparing financial good health to a stiletto shoe. But in a quirky twist of fate, of the kind that this film is heavily reliant on, the letter ends up in the hands of the editor from another magazine in the Alette stable: Successful Saving.

The end. Rebecca works there for years and finally pays off her debt. If only that were true. The rest is almost too tedious to relate, but here goes. Upon landing a trial at this financial magazine, Rebecca writes a piece comparing a store card to a cashmere coat. Brilliant. See what Rebecca did again there? She fuses fashion and finance because that seems to be the only way that this halfwit can understand anything that's not "Prada-speak", as she terms it later. (Just one of many product placements throughout the film - be on your guard.) For some reason, there ensues the meteoric rise of Rebecca's financial journalism career. Through her absurd analogies, she becomes an internationally famous columnist. Take that, Financial Times. All you need is a dizzy redhead spouting nonsense, none of that careful analysis needed; get rid of all that actual data.

Along the way there is a tenuous love story that develops between Rebecca and her editor, Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy). And a eye-wateringly embarrassing role from Kristin Scott-Thomas, who must have had a lobotomy before signing up for the role as the frosty editor of Alette. She seems to have been aiming for something like Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. Rebecca gets one or two points for finishing the film marginally less irritating than she is when you start on the one-and-a-half hour wreck of a movie. By the end, she can walk past a department-store window without venturing in and Fisher's hammed-up slapstick comedy - scrambling across tables and into objects - has tapered off.

One peculiarity which might strike you, however, is over her sense of style. Elmo meets Big Bird is about right, with fluffy coats in almost every scene. For one so devoted to shopping, it seems odd that she can't dig out anything less furry. But then you learn that her character was styled by Patricia Field of Sex and the City fame, and all becomes horribly clear. The film, directed by PJ Hogan (Muriel's Wedding, My Best Friend's Wedding), was bludgeoned together from two of the five books in the Shopaholic series, by the British writer Sophie Kinsella. Bruckheimer has previously threatened to make something of the final three. Here's hoping that the recession has sufficiently curbed his own spending power.