I blame Isla Fisher. After running away and stealing every scene in movies like Wedding Crashers, that red-headed pixie finally gets a chance to take the lead this time around. Fisher stars as Rebecca Bloomwood, a struggling kinda-sorta-journalist who's been leaning on a Prada bag overstuffed with maxed-out credit cards to fund her shopping addiction. Okay, so she's more fashion-savvy than her bank account can shoulder, but that doesn't steer her away from wanting to set up shop with the haute couture crowd at Alette magazine anyway. Turns out they filled the gig Becca was eyeing...and by a calculatingly cold, leggy blonde (Leslie Bibb) to boot. That's okay, though. Alette is part of a sprawling publishing empire, and if Rebecca can weasel her way into some other arm in their corporate family, it won't be long until she can hop from something mundane over to her dream job.
Thanks to her editor's prodding, Rebecca's anonymously written column, "The Girl in the Green Scarf", makes an immediate splash. C'mon, though...this is a movie, so you know it's not gonna be that easy. Rebecca's compulsive shopping threatens to carve a path of destruction through her new writing gig, a budding romance, and a lifelong friendship, and when a kinda-sorta celebrity is being hounded by a debt collector for being sixteen grand in the hole and happens to be writing for a magazine about saving money...well, that sort of thing's gonna get out eventually...
Pretty much everyone the world over trashed Confessions of a Shopaholic, but for what it is, I'm not all that ashamed to admit that I dug it. The movie wouldn't have ranked much more than an indifferent shrug if anyone else had leapt into the lead than Isla Fisher, though. Despite stealing every last scene in Wedding Crashers, she's been kind of an underutilized talent in the years since, but Confessions... gives Fisher a chance to strut her stuff. It'd be easy for Rebecca to teeter into being hollow, materialistic, and unlikeable -- especially in this bleak financial climate -- but Fisher is so innocent and unrelentingly adorable that she can pull off that delicate balancing act. There's no malice or sneering behind her compulsion; high-ticket fashion is just Rebecca's way of spackling over her insecurities. From defrosting a credit card lodged in ice like Captain America to trying to swipe hate mail while hiding inside a rack of coats to stumbling with a tray of food at a ritzy ball, Fisher's exaggerated expressions and knack for physical comedy kept me laughing pretty steadily throughout. There's such a childlike innocence to Rebecca that Confessions of a Shopaholic also ekes out a lot more
Although this...isn't so much the type of movie I'd expect to see backed by a producer like Jerry Bruckheimer, having a name like him onboard makes for a particularly glossy, polished comedy. Confessions of a Shopaholic takes full advantage of its Manhattan backdrop, and it keeps Fisher flanked by a half-battalion of great supporting players. Ed Helms, John Goodman, Fred Armisen, John Lithgow, Joan Cusack, and Kristin Scott Thomas all chime in with small but frequently significant roles, and they generally play it straight as a counterpoint to Rebecca's slapstick. Krysten Ritter's a ridiculous amount of fun in the best friend role, and Hugh Dancy makes for a classic sort of romantic lead. It's a better written part than the stock stuffed-shirt-who-doesn't-realize-what-he's-missing-out-on-in-life routine this would've been in pretty much any other movie. There's that element of it sprinkled around in here too, but Luke Brandon's a better sketched character than just that.
The first hour of Confessions of a Shopaholic is such bubbly, effervescent fun that when it does have to tear through the obligatory break-up-to-make-up/bottoming-out plot points, I...gasp!...still felt invested in the characters and the story up to that point anyway. Director P.J. Hogan (My Best Friend's Wedding) deftly juggles the broader comedy with the movie's thumping heart and more dramatic moments, and between the siren song of CG-tweaked mannequins and a marvelous leading turn by Isla Fisher, the addiction elements are surprisingly convincing as well. Admittedly, Confessions of a Shopaholic does feel kind of routine and heavy-handed as it draws to a close, and the movie as a whole runs fifteen or twenty minutes longer than it probably ought to. That's okay, though. Lightweight...? Sure, but Confessions of a Shopaholic is just trying to be cute and funny, and...well, that's exactly what it is. Oh well. I liked it. Recommended.
As if you'd really expect anything less for such a cute, glossy comedy, Confessions of a Shopaholic looks terrific in high-def. Such a fashion-centric movie screams out for this sort of bright, eye-poppingly colorful photography, and the scope image is -- for the most part, at least -- crisp and nicely detailed. While most scope movies lean on Super35 photography or slap some mattes on top of digital video, Confessions of a Shopaholic was shot anamorphic. It seems like there's been kind of an anamorphic resurgence over the past year or so, and as a green belt film geek, that's nice to see. Anamorphic photography is often accompanied by a few scattered shots that look less detailed than the rest, and although that's the case here too, it's sparse, not terribly intrusive, and shouldn't be considered a hiccup specific to this Blu-ray disc. A faintly grainy texture lends Confessions of a Shopaholic a warm, naturally filmlike appearance, and the AVC encode has enough headroom to render that sheen of grain properly. I've never been disappointed with one of Disney's day-and-dates on Blu-ray, and Confessions of a Shopaholic keeps that long-running streak breezing along.
After adding in a smattering of high-def featurettes, Confessions of a Shopaholic does spill over into the second layer of this BD-50.
Squirreled away in Confessions of a Shopaholic's handbag is a 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This isn't some spastic action flick or anything, so don't waltz in expecting any sort of hyperaggressive sound design, but Confessions...'s lossless track suits the material perfectly. Dialogue is rendered cleanly and clearly, natch, and there's a consistently strong sense of stereo imaging across the front channels. The rears never really stop chattering, reinforcing various snippets of music and splashing on a reasonably convincing sense of atmosphere. Among the color in the surrounds are squawking gulls in Miami, the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, and reverb in a stuffy shareholders' conference. The low-end is pretty healthy thanks to some thumpin' electropop on the soundtrack and the plop-thud-whack of all of the physical comedy. No gripes here.
There are also Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and subtitle streams in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and a couple of other languages that are in symbols I apparently don't know how to decipher. The English subs are captioned for the deaf and hard of hearing, by the way.
The Final Word
Sure, I'm not exactly the target demo for a movie like Confessions of a Shopaholic, but that's okay: I dug it anyway. It's an adorable, funnier-than-you'd-think confection of a comedy, and Isla Fisher is terrific as she takes the reins as the lead for the first time. She's consistently been the best thing about every movie she's co-starred in up to this point, and it's her screen presence and marvelous comic timing that really make Confessions... worth keeping an eye out for. Recommended.