A Patriarchal Equation

In times of relentless economy, aggrandizing unemployment rates, increasing debts, and low personal and collective cheerfulness, P. J. Hogan’s Confessions of a Shopaholic may be a comedy about consumerism and materialistic possessions that comes out at the wrong time. This film may look cute, but it’s still an comedy completely spent of emotion, about quixotic circumstances, hence impracticable message. Even though the film is mainly targeted at female viewers, it also seems to have a conspicuous contempt for its female characters with obvious with an anti-feminist theme.

Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher), a bright, fun-loving girl who excels at shopping, dreams of working for her favorite fashion magazine but can’t get a job there. With 12 credit cards maxed out, she finds herself over $9,000 in debt just when the magazine she writes for goes bankrupt. Setting her sights to work at one of the most eye-catching fashion magazines in the city, Rebecca, instead, ends up landing a job as a columnist for Successful Saving, a financial magazine published by the same company when she strikes the editor (Hugh Dancy) with her out-of-the-box ideas on topics most people would find them marked by tedium. After only one column, Rebecca becomes becomes instantly famous, attends fancy parties in Miami, black-tie affairs in New York and lands her handsome editor as a life partner. While she manages to rub elbows with publishers and work her way to the top, Rebecca lives in reverential awe that someone will find out she is giving financial advice to her readers when she, too, is living in debt. As her dreams begin to come true, she must go to extreme efforts to keep her past from ruining her future.

Beside, the only funny line Fisher delivers in the entire film: “They said I was a valued customer, now they send me hate mail.”, this capricious film about the fantasy and imperfections of a lively girl who’s obsessive about non-stop shopping suggests a patriarchal equation that a woman is debt, nothing more. Rebecca may be a headstrong-yet-sweet Manhattan reporter, but she completely personifies the concept of financial deficit and defect through her insatiable materialism and consumerism, spending her days drooling over Gucci bags and dodging credit collectors because of her unhealthy addiction to shopping. Certainly, the consumerist fixation in the film will inspire consumption and public spending, hopefully to reinvigorate the economy. She compares her childhood love of beautiful things like a commercial fairy tale (“When I was 7, most of my friends stopped believing in magic. That’s when I first started. They were beautiful, they were happy, they didn’t even need any money: they had magic cards!”) She takes a job in New York city as the only female financial journalist at a high powered savings magazine. In an ironic sense, she’s the moral authority on spending. She gives advice to the rest of the world on how to best invest their cash, while her love of shopping takes her down to a dark place of futile addiction, and the revolting visual of her massive stack of unpaid credit card bills is enough to make you cry.

Buying only high-end couture, all of the value of her material possessions are grossly hyperbolized, and through her never-ending pursuit of fashion happiness she overspends, over-borrows, and has to come up with a way to pay it all off. That is not the only negative way women have been portrayed in film recently. The stereotype of women who overspend is one that leaves much to be desired, and this film doesn’t give the female image any credibility when it indulges in four minute long scenes involving two women fighting over the last pair of Gucci boots.

With magazine jobs disappearing everyday, Confessions of a Shopaholic could be one of the last films to celebrate print journalism as a pleasant job. As screenwriters, Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth, and Kayla Alpert’s credit is due only where they could figure out a way to incorporate both Kinsella’s books, Confessions of a Shopaholic and Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, best-sellers in the U.K. and many other countries, into only one film. That way, you don’t have to sit through a second one.

Rating: 1/5

To see Confessions of a Shopaholic in theatres, check your local listings, or visit the http://www.shopaholicmovie.com

Criticetc is a journalism/film/book critic in Bangkok and Pattaya, and at http://www.pattayacitylive.com and http://www.cinemainreview.com

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