Confessions of a Shopaholic (2008)

Rated PG. Our ratings: V- 1; L-2 ; S/N-2 . Running time: 1 hour 44 min.

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and rust consume and where thieves
break in and steal; but store up for yourselves
treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust
consumes and where thieves do not break in and
steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart
will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21

Rebecca and her boss Luke at s meeting.

2008 Touchstone Pictures

If human cloning were perfected, then Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) could become an important part of TARP. Our government might set up a secret project to turn out a thousand or so of her, all of them unable to pass a store window without going in and swiping their plastic money card through the scanner and leaving with bags of shoes, boots, dresses, gloves, and other luxury items. Talk about an economic stimulus package! But then, maybe, on second thought, this might not be such a good idea: maybe it is the Rebecca Bloomwood’s who got us into our current financial mess, maxing out all of her 30 credit cards until she discovers that all those bills she has ignored add up to more than $16,000..

Director P.J. Hogan’s (My Best Friend’s Wedding) escapist comedy, based on bestseller Sophie Kinsella’s books, stars the Australian comedienne Isla Fisher as a ditzy journalist whose magazine goes bankrupt. Unemployment is always a calamity, but in Rebecca’s case it is doubly so because of her inability to say “No” whenever she passes by an expensive boutique. Her theme song could be “I can’t Say No.” Her parents are Jane & Graham Bloomwood (Joan Cusack & John Goodman), blue collar folk, and it is Mom’s practice of dressing little Rebecca in hand me down clothes that the grown daughter blames for her obsession with buying new clothing.

By a combination of accident and stretching the truth Rebecca lands a job, not on the fashion magazine she aspires to write for, Alette, but instead for the money magazine Successful Saving, owned by the same conglomerate. She knows nothing about economic affairs, but it’s editor Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy) likes a piece on shopping for a green scarf that she writes, and assigns her to write an advice column for shoppers. Her column becomes a hit with readers, and she becomes known as “The Girl With the Green Scarf.” Meanwhile, she keeps dodging a Hound of Heaven-like bill collector, who almost catches up with her on several funny occasions. As her fame grows and she becomes the subject of a live television show, the question arises of how and when the truth about her will be exposed.

This screw ball comedy has a lot of funny scenes, as well as some over the top ones. I must confess that I went to see this film because I had seen all of the good ones, and for the first half hour thoroughly disliked Rebecca. She seemed like such a self-centered airhead with values totally opposite to those in the Sermon on the Mount. However, Isla Fisher, like a modern day Lucille Ball is winsome, and her supporting cast add much to the unlikely tale. Aside from those already mentioned, it includes John Lithgow as the magazine publisher, Kristin Scott Thomas as the editor of Alette, Krysten Ritter as best friend and voice of reason, and Robert Stanton as the bill collector (and stalker) Derek Smeath.

For Reflection/Discussion

1. What did you think of Rebecca when you first see her in the film? Although exaggerated for effect, how is there much truth in the portrait of her? Whom do you know that has run up a great amount of debit on their credit cards?

2. How is this a study in reversal of values: that is, how do we come to root for a prevaricator and scofflaw and despise the one trying to catch her? In reality, who has to pay in the credit industry when customers renege on paying their bills?

3. Read Matthew 6 and compare the values therein with those of Rebecca. When she accepts the saying that the green scarf “defines her” what does this reveal about her sense of self? Later, when she says to her father that the RV “completely defines” him, what do you think of his response? ( “Nothing defines me—except your mother.” )

4. Look through the pages of a fashion magazine or the Sunday edition of the New York TIMES: how do most of the ads target the Rebecca Bloomwoods among their readers?

5. During the TV interview the questions are raised “What about honesty?…What about credibility?” How are these threatening to Rebecca? And what (or who) interrupts the proceedings, raising these very issues?

6. What do you think of the 12 Step meetings that Rebecca attends? How does her comment “When I shop, the world gets better” show that she needs to be there?

7. How do we see that she is a changed person by the end? How does this involve her adopting a better self image?