I'm an avid movie-watcher and an even more avid about watching movies over and over again, ad nauseum, like some annoying toddler with the latest Disney movie. Sometimes you catch things you missed, even in the simplest of popcorn movies where the preview alone could tell you the whole story in less than thirty seconds. I was rewatching an old favorite, Confessions of a Shopaholic. When I say "old favorite," that means it's something I'll keep on while I'm puttering around the house, missing whole segments of the movie, because you can pretty much jump in at any part and not feel like you've missed much, as it's a pleasantly fun, nonthreatening but transparent flick. Oddly enough, its fluffy exterior enclosed a lesson I still carry around to this day, almost two years later.
I never read Sophie Kinsella's book, so I can't say whether or not the adaptation was particularly true. I know the location changed from London to New York, Isla Fisher is a whiz at faking a ditzy American accent, but the message remained the same -- why are we so retail-obsessed? I felt conflicted and somewhat heebie-jeebied-out by the spooky mannequins who egg the main character on to buy stuff to boost her self-esteem. Conflicted, as I do have a blog that encourages the adoration of material things, and even a bit guilty, as I've had those moments in a dressing room where even in the unflattering flicker of department store lighting, that smart new frock really does give a little emotional boost. That boost inevitably translates to some fuzzy math reduction that makes the numbers on the pricetag slightly less daunting and then you wonder what momentary insanity took over when the credit card bill shows up a few weeks later. But after seeing the movie and having those harrowing faceless-yet-fashionable ghouls taunt one into buying stuff to drum up the happy feelings, I still get that creepy image reappearing in my brain, and more often than not, I put down the as-yet unpurchased item and rationalize that this junkie doesn't need the fix after all. Enter the mantra of: "You're good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnit... you didn't need to blow that $100 that should really go to pay the electric bill."
It makes me wonder how many people picked up on the very real message of recognizing addiction in this movie, and maybe the crazy Pat Field outfits were intentionally over the top to parody label obsession. It's unfortunate the real value of the story had to be swaddled in such a fluffy romance movie; the biggest conflict you feel while watching it is wondering if they couldn't decide if they wanted it to be feel-good or with a message. I think test audiences went with the easy answer of, "I don't want to think, give me a pat happy ending so I don't feel bad about hitting the latest sale." I wished it spent more time focused on the main character's familiar yet dysfunctional relationship with money, objects and her parents. Or just show more of those spooky mannequins to provide more adequate shock therapy to the viewers. It sure as hell worked for me.
Jaunty Fine Print: images from IMDB.com