One of Hollywood’s most underrated rom-com films is “Confessions of a Shopaholic” (2009), starring Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy — a film that, according to IMDb, only deserves an average of 5.8 out of 10 stars. This flick captures Dancy’s charm, who is completely swoon-worthy as the perfect rom-com man, and Fisher’s talent as the stylish leading lady. Even though Dancy deserves more rom-com film cameos (his appearance in “Ella Enchanted” serving as one example), this film truly showcases his potential. But really, the plot is so much more; ultimately, it explores the theme of mental health through its depiction of shopping addiction. These important plotlines are unraveled through a developing romantic relationship and sharp comedy. The trope of “boss and employee romance” is also a present theme in the plotline that may motivate audiences to indulge in the movie.
Fisher’s character, Rebecca Bloomwood, is an established journalist trying to level up to a more prestigious magazine named Alette. However, she lands herself in a bit of a pickle — one that is a vicious cycle of spending and maxing out credit cards, which leads to seemingly insurmountable credit card debt. Her excessive shopping habit fuels several bigger issues.
Without spoiling too much of the plot, Rebecca accepts a job as a columnist at Successful Saving (a branch of Alette magazine) with hopes of leveling up from the magazine. While she doesn’t know much about finance journalism, her familiarity with credit card debt serves as “well enough” experience. Writing anonymously under the name of “girl in the green scarf,” she proves to be someone who offers a refreshing take on financial advice and increases the number of the magazine’s readers. Her financial advice column — despite her mounting credit card debt — almost makes her the perfect model for wise spending choices.
Though Rebecca’s professional life seems to thrive, she lives a double life as someone who should really take their own advice. Initially, she is oblivious to her own issues, which some have described as symptoms of compulsive shopping disorder (CSD), a serious diagnosis that stems from an individual’s materialistic needs and reduced capacity for self-control. Though this disorder is not specifically represented in the film, it is loosely inferred by viewers based on her behavior. Unwilling to acknowledge the severity of her habit and obsession with materialism, Rebecca continues her unhealthy lifestyle. As the film progresses, she does eventually admit to her problematic habit of filling life’s void with her shopping.
Essentially, “Confessions of a Shopaholic” explores the serious theme of using shopping to cope with poor mental health, which is often casually identified as “shopping addiction.” This issue in Hollywood is both stigmatized as well as glamorized, written off as “retail therapy,” often overlooked and swept under the rug by viewers. However, the film proves that shopping addiction can be harmful and set off a negative chain of events. Rebecca demonstrates the idea that not only is excessive shopping a damaging act, but it can also have effects on said addict’s relationships.
Meanwhile, as Rebecca struggles with her issues and the compulsive need to shop, a budding relationship with her boss at Successful Saving magazine begins to grow. Following the boss and employee romance trope, the two start to become closer. Dancy’s charm as a man with dimples makes him the ideal man who means business in a suit. As the film’s eye candy, he has viewers falling in love. He serves as a distraction to the serious undertones of the plot.
To the audience’s dismay, Rebecca’s credibility as a “financial expert” is eventually obliterated. Outed for her addictive tendencies and debt, she is pegged as a fraud. Unfortunately, her developing relationship is affected by her lie and shopping addiction.
Rebecca’s best friend, Suze (who is portrayed by Krysten Ritter), is also affected by her destructive choices. Long story short, Suze’s wedding is approaching and in a desperate attempt to get an item, Rebecca swaps her best friend’s wedding bridesmaid dress. Obviously, Suze sees this as a betrayal, so she distances herself from Rebecca. Rebecca’s judgment is clearly clouded by her excessive materialism.
Of course, it is important to remember that this is a light-hearted film, so relationships are eventually fixed and a resolution is reached. However, the film does not necessarily depict all scenarios of how this addiction may actually play out. Due to this fact, many have overlooked how important this film can actually be. The serious conflicts that originate in Rebecca’s addiction and the toll it takes on her happiness are explored in an absorbing way.
One of the best parts of this film is that there are many layers to the plot. Even though this movie explores serious themes and underlying societal issues, there is still a lot of comedy and romance. The blend of different elements mesh well and make for a balanced plot.
After so many years, this film is still one that deserved more. Only one award won for this movie feels like a crime. Hollywood should shed more light on the movie’s serious themes. Since there seems to be little representation of the reality of shopping addiction, “Confessions of a Shopaholic” should be given a chance. With Fisher’s varied storylines and Hugh Dancy’s delightful existence, there is no better alternative for a rom-com with heart and brain.