Give Her Credit
Isla Fisher Tries to Save Script’s Plunging Stock
Rebecca Bloomwood shops, therefore she is. Living on borrowed time in a borrowed nook in a friend’s apartment, Rebecca (Isla Fisher) hops from store to sale and back again—and that’s all she does, and all she is. She has no romantic attachments and just one friendship, with Suze (Krysten Ritter). She has a job she doesn’t like at Gardening Today magazine—of course, she likes the paycheck plenty and, when the magazine folds and Rebecca’s weekly influx of cash dries up, she panics. While applying for a job at Alette magazine, a high-end fashion tome, she hijink-ily ends up as a columnist at Successful Saving, which comes with dreamy editor Luke (Hugh Dancy, who badly needs a shave.) (Also, I’ve spent most of my life surrounded by journalists [it’s kind of the family business] and, while I respect the profession and those journalists to whom I am related, not a single one looks like Hugh Dancy. Keep that in mind, Aspiring Young Journalists.)
Of course Spendy Rebecca working at a finance magazine means that she has great angles on stories that she doesn’t actually understand and is brilliant at her job and everyone loves her and Luke loves her and she loves Luke but will people ever discover the truth? Oh, of course they will. But it all turns out OK.
I haven’t read the book by Sophie Kinsella, so I have no idea if the book’s plot is any smarter than the movie’s, which…isn’t smart. However, the parts that are smart are eerily prescient of today’s economy. I don’t know if director P.J. Hogan (My Best Friend’s Wedding and the really fun Muriel’s Wedding) went back and made some changes (some scenes in the trailer never appear onscreen, which suggests some final-final cuts after the final cut was done), but there is some innocently wry commentary on why people—especially women—buy. Rebecca blames her spendthrift ways on her cheap mom (Joan Cusack, who, according to imdb.com, would have been 14 when birthing Becky), but her voiceovers in the early part of the film tip her hand, revealing cards she doesn’t even know are there. “A man will never love you or treat you as well as a store,” she proclaims. Of course not, because men are, well, people, and not a maze of marketing. “If I can just get this job, I will be happy forever,” she says of the position at Alette. And while the whole looking-outside-to-fix-an-inward-issue smacks of psychobabble, here it works. The film also works when Becky challenges a banker on why he and his staff got bonuses when his stockholders lost money; when Luke is pressured to make his editorial more attractive to advertisers by running puff pieces and staying away from anything that might make ad revenues drop, a common occurence in print media; when Luke says the major problem facing the average investor is “an endemic lack of understanding” of how financial systems work; when Becky laments of her credit card companies “I used to be a valued customer—now they send me hate mail!”. There are moments here when it looks like a consumerist way of life is going to be taken on in a lighthearted but scalpel-sharp way (for example, Becky writes a column on how sometimes you think investments are cashmere coats, only to find, when you read the fine print, that they’re 95% polyester; Alette’s editor, the fabulous Kristin Scott Thomas, points out that, in her high-fashion magazine, they “print the prices very small.”) … and then the movie goes back to getting Becky and Luke together. (Oh, I’m sorry. Did I ruin the ending for you?)
Oh, and throughout the movie Becky is stalked by a debt collector in ways that I’m pretty sure are illegal, though no one seems to point that out.
The film is surprisingly, refreshingly clean: I counted one a-word and one b-word. Becky and Suze get tipsy on tequila. There’s some slapsticky catfighting, usually in the context of shopping (note to screenwriters: Filene’s “Running of the Brides” possibly excepted, women do not, in fact, scream while shopping).
It might seem counterintuitive, in this economy, to go see a girl who bought herself into silly debt—especially when the audience might have debt that isn’t silly and was certainly unavoidable. But, in the end, Shopaholic does have a good message to convey to young girls: you’re worth more than what Vogue says you are; you deserve better than Seven Jeans and Prada bags you can’t afford. Becky gets herself out of debt without relying on her parents or money ex machina miracles, and learns that the love of friends, family and (as always) a good man means she’ll always be a valued customer.
At a Feb. 16 screening, the previews were: earth, a plea to stop screwing up the environment because there are cute baby animals to think of; Monsters vs. Aliens, which shows a cartoon garter, mentions “boobies,” has a poop joke and an alien sputtering “What the flagnard?;” Night at the Museum 2, in which a T-Rex skelaton comes to life in a way that may be scary for young kids, and Hannah Montana: The Movie, which they don’t pay me enough to cover.
Kristen Page-Kirby is the editor of Chesapeake Family magazine, which keeps its advertising strictly separate from its editorial, so maybe Hugh Dancy should come work here. She used to edit a fashion section but had to leave when $200 purses started looking like bargains. She last reviewed He’s Just Not That Into You.