'Confessions Of A Shopaholic': Funny Girl, By Kurt Loder

Isla Fisher turns a so-so story into something to see.

Rebecca Bloomwood is a New York fashion casualty with a dozen credit cards, two or three of which actually aren't maxed out. When she spots yet another must-have accessory — a $100 scarf, say, or a couple hundred dollars' worth of Marc Jacobs underwear — she has to carefully spread the damage among her still-functioning shards of plastic. It's pathetic, but what can be done? "When I shop," she says, "the world gets better."

If Rebecca weren't played by [movieperson id="287406"]Isla Fisher[/movieperson], in a performance of entirely huggable slapstick charm, there wouldn't be a lot to say about [movie id="367357"]"Confessions of a Shopaholic."[/movie] In a charitable view, the picture could be seen as a '30s-style screwball comedy, high on fizz, maxed out on plausibility and uncomplicatedly enjoyable. But the Tinkertoy plot is so obliviously generic, and the characters so improbably motivated, that without Fisher, the whole giddy contraption would collapse in a heap of giggles.

Rebecca is a journalist of some sort who longs to land a job at the big-time fashion magazine Alette. Instead, through a plot complication too delirious to be annoying, she winds up at a sister publication, a sober financial monthly called Successful Savings. The concept of having money but for some reason not spending it is one with which Rebecca has no acquaintance. Although spectacularly well-dressed (well, expensively dressed, anyway — she has a pair of knee-high gold-lamé boots that might give a hooker pause), she's broke. Her sweet, supportive roommate, Suze (Krysten Ritter, a beaming doll), indulges her lack of rent participation, but Rebecca is being hounded at all hours by a hard-nosed debt collector (the amusingly obsessive Robert Stanton) for her lack of payback. ("They said I was a valued customer," she mews. "Now they send me hate mail.")

Fortunately, instead of showing this blazingly under-qualified job-seeker the door, the wiz-kid editor of Successful Savings, Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy), takes her under his hunky wing, assigning her to write consumer pieces for the thrift-impaired. Only a screenwriter would try to sell this sort of thing with a straight face, and only a total rom-com addict would buy the scene in which Rebecca tells a big advertiser that his display windows are dull and he should start stocking free doughnuts for customers — and he responds with, "She's like a breath of fresh air!"

But Fisher sails right past every brazen violation of Earth-style logic. We can forgive the awkwardly tacked-on presence of Rebecca's parents (John Goodman and Joan Cusack) and the strained running gag about her purported proficiency in speaking Finnish, because just when your eyeballs start rolling up in your head, Rebecca's killer heels will suddenly betray her on a slippery office floor, or she'll triumphantly crack a last-resort credit card out of a block of ice in the fridge, or set her shopaholics therapy group swooning with a dreamy-eyed evocation of "the sheen of silk, draped across a mannequin." The director, P.J. Hogan ("My Best Friend's Wedding"), contributes an inspired visual riff, too: As Rebecca walks along a block of high-priced stores, the mannequins in the windows come to blank-faced life and beckon her inside to graze among the Guccis.

Does Rebecca become an overnight star writer? Does she land the yummy Luke? You don't have see the movie to answer these questions. But Fisher is such a nonstop comic delight — such a star — that you might well want to see it anyway.

Don't miss Kurt Loder's reviews of "Friday the 13th" and "The International," also new in theaters this week.

Check out everything we've got on "Confessions of a Shopoholic."

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