When I saw the previews for this movie, I remember thinking how timely this topic was considering the U.S. was dealing with the aftermath of the 2008 housing crisis and financial recession. Like the book series it’s based on, Shopaholic takes on the humor of finance and overspending. This is to its credit, because this film is to this day something I want to regularly rewatch, while I’ve all but forgotten the serious, dour films about the crisis, like Up in the Air, also released in 2009.
As it is often said, humor is all about timing, and Shopaholic has that in spades. From Isla Fisher’s slapstick Rebecca Bloomwood to Hugh Dancy’s understated Luke Brandon, and all of the quirky characters in between, the performances barely miss a beat, so much so that it’s often easy to miss a joke or punchline. This makes the movie very watchable ten years later. The main plot of a constant spender learning to spend wisely is also a topic that will never go out of style as long as there is money and things to spend it on.
Rebecca Bloomwood is the typical everywoman that is a staple of these kinds of movies. She comes from a country background, but has moved to the city because she’s interested in fashion. The number of Hollywood movies centered around young women in NYC all working at magazines, or even, specifically, fashion magazines, has got to be in the hundreds, if not higher. Rebecca’s shopping addiction is simply explained as thus: Her parents, being thrifty, would always buy the cheapest items available for her as a child. She calls them “brown things.” In contrast, her friends would get to buy sparkly, colorful clothes, shoes, and accessories, only they had “magic cards” called credit cards and didn’t have to worry about the cost. They could pay the actual price.
Years later, Rebecca finds herself in deep credit card debt, and living a life of high fashion, but little integrity. She lies repeatedly to cover the evidence of her overspending, and if she has a desire for anything, it is for clothes, not for a boyfriend or a family. Her one dream is to work for Alette fashion magazine, a loose copy of similar magazines featured in The Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty. From those previous shows, we as the audience now know that few, if any of those people who work in that industry, actually pay full price–or at all–for the items they promote and sell. Thus there’s a tarnish over Rebecca as we follow her to her first interview. The idea that such a magazine would be great to work for is all but gone.
Disappointed to find the position already filled, Rebecca is directed to interview with one of the lesser magazines owned by the same company in the hopes that she can one day move up to Alette. It turns out to be a money magazine called Successful Saving, and Rebecca is surprised to find out that she’s already met her future boss, Luke Brandon, and has already lied to him due to her spending addiction.
Like many liars, Rebecca has an exciting personality to those around her. She enjoys the good life and spending money, and has a carefree humor that makes people rally to her side–whether they should or not. The practical Luke is not immune to her charms, but fortunately for him he is an excellent editor who thoroughly understands finance, and helps Rebecca learn that her realizations about buying quality clothes can also relate to understanding money and investing. He says that, “cost and worth are two different things.” This is the main point of the movie. Rebecca’s column for the magazine becomes an overnight success, and she’s soon on the radar of both the magazine conglomerate owners and the head editor of Alette.
Throughout the movie, we see Rebecca finding out the difference between cost and worth, and learning that people are often the best investment, better than high fashion at least. When we meet her parents, played by the always funny Joan Cusack and John Goodman, we come to understand their daughter’s obsession with good looking things. Her parents’ fashion sense is bland colors and weird flea market buys. They appear to understand saving money, but not buying quality items. Rebecca’s best friend Suze, played by an on-point and fashionably dressed Krysten Ritter, works the hardest to help Rebecca deal with her debt. She’s also the one hit the hardest when it’s clear that what Rebecca has is indeed an addiction that she is barely keeping under control. It is, however, as it is with addictions in general, the lying to the people around her that lands Rebecca in the most trouble.
Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Confessions of a Shopaholic, radiates the same sense of fun and adventure that all of his movies portray. The clothes, music, and characters are all upbeat, the problems never too dire to be fixed, and storylines never too depressing to end up with anything but happiness. Rebecca learns her lesson, at least for the time being, but we also see Luke, her parents, and the other characters also learning some of the same lessons. Even practical people devoted to good finance don’t always understand that cost isn’t the same as worth. Not much is mentioned about the current housing crisis, except a line from Rebecca’s dad: “If the U.S. economy can carry on after being trillions of dollars in debt, so can you.” (Or something to that effect). The line, although relevant, seems uncannily out of step with the rest of the film, even today. It is this line that dates the movie the most, tying it down to a particular time in history. As a whole, the film is much fluff and some substance, but it’s also very entertaining and rewatchable. It never takes itself too seriously, which I found was a flaw with its predecessor The Devil Wears Prada. This movie is still one of the better romantic comedies Hollywood has produced.