Cheap laughs

Posted on 12 Feb 2009 at 5:58pm

Save your money on this romantic comedy about overconsumption


PRODUCT PLACEMENT: Isla Fisher as the shop-crazy heroine.


The PG-rated comedy might have been made in the early ’60s with Ann-Margret in the lead.

Depression viewers flocked to movies about rich people acting silly, so recession audiences should like Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher). She isn’t rich but shops as if she were, and she certainly acts silly.

Raised by frugal parents (Joan Cusack, John Goodman), Rebecca wants to write for Kristen Scott Thomas’ fashion magazine; but she winds up instead as a columnist for a sister publication, Successful Saving.

Editor Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy), who happens to be rich, handsome and available, enjoys Rebecca’s humorous way of discussing financial issues through shopping metaphors. So does the public.

Rebecca’s financial irresponsibility is treated frivolously enough that financially-challenged audiences can laugh at the pratfalls, sigh at the romance and perhaps make up a shopping list from the fashions on display, without thinking about what their popcorn cost.

The movie was directed by P.J. Hogan, who made "Muriel’s Wedding" and "My Best Friend’s Wedding." Although there’s no "Wedding" in this title, Fisher is best known for her role in "Wedding Crashers."

Despite the heroine’s budding career in journalism, "Confessions of a Shopaholic" is much, much milder than "The Devil Wears Prada," "Sex and the City" or even TV’s "Ugly Betty." There’s not even a lot of camp, just two minor gay characters: a magazine receptionist and a man at Rebecca’s support group. Wendie Malick’s grotesque support group leader would probably qualify as camp, on a slow day.

The appealing Fisher is like a red-haired Kate Hudson, but with talent. One can imagine her having a long run in a TV sitcom, given the right premise.

If you’re going to go to a movie for mindless entertainment anyway, "Confessions of a Shopaholic" will fill the bill. But if you can resist, the advice from here is to save your money.

— Steve Warren


Grade: C+


Opens Friday, Feb. 13 in wide release.


DALLAS SCRIBE STAGGS’ ‘BORN TO BE HURT’ DROPS TUESDAY


Hollywood buffs are already anticipating Sam Staggs’ latest.

In 2001, the Oak Cliff author released "All About All About Eve: The Complete Behind-the-Scenes Story of the Bitchiest Film Ever Made!" — a witty expose that investigated everything except Bette Davis’ gynecological records. Since then, Staggs has scrutinized Norma Desmond’s masterpiece "A Close-Up On Sunset Boulevard" and the scandals behind "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Staggs, pictured, now turns his probing scalpel to study Lana Turner’s biracial melodrama, "Born to be Hurt: The Untold Story of ‘Imitation of Life.’" (St. Martins, $26.95, Feb. 17). Along with a sidebar about Sherman, Texas’ Bess "queen of the extras" Flowers, Staggs also unearths queer liberation themes encoded in the pre-Stonewall "Imitation" script: ­When biracial Sarah Jean denies her black roots, her mom says, "It’s a sin to be ashamed of what you are…. The Lord must have had his reason for making some of us white and some of us black."
 



— Daniel A. Kusner


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 13, 2009.

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