Isla Fisher stars as the afflicted in <em>Confessions of a Shopaholic</em>.

In the 19th century, romantic heroines died of consumption. In these days of global financial meltdown, consumption means something different altogether-and in the case of Confessions of a Shopaholic, it’s a condition that inspires far less sympathy.

Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) is a journalist who’s maxed out her credit cards in order to indulge her taste for designer labels. As the bills pile up, she’s laid off from her job, but lands a new one as-of all things-a financial advice columnist. Her dreamy new editor, Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy), thinks Rebecca’s straightforward style will help their stuffy magazine reach a whole new audience, but Rebecca’s focus is on getting a job at a prestigious fashion magazine-all the while evading the bill collector, humoring her best friend’s efforts to help her, and refusing to admit she has a problem with plastic.

Fisher infuses Rebecca with humor, spunk, and vulnerability, but even her valiant efforts can’t mask the character’s shallowness. Rebecca’s flashes of insight and hints at emotional pain are simply not credible, coming as they do from a character that’s not particularly smart or introspective. Although Dancy’s combination of sensitivity and masculinity are enough to make a grown woman swoon, Luke seems too intelligent and earnest to fall for Rebecca.

But the real problem with this film is not that it wastes the comedic talents of supporting cast members like John Lithgow and Joan Cusack, or that director P.J. Hogan’s signature use of music as a humorous device (Muriel’s Wedding, My Best Friend’s Wedding) is reduced to apt but brief usage of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” and an original Batman theme ringtone. No, Confessions’ main flaw is that we have seen almost all of its major plot lines before-with more clever writing and better developed characters-in the television series Sex and the City. At one point in Confessions, Rebecca realizes that the “cashmere gloves” she has just purchased are only 5 percent cashmere. It’s a perfect metaphor for the entire film, which is 95 percent synthetic and contains only trace amounts of Carrie Bradshaw.


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