Confessions of a Shopaholic (US - BD RA)
Gabe confesses that he has no interest in high fashion, and he has good credit
Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) is desperate for a job writing for the high-fashion New York magazine. After a minor setback she gets her stilettos in the door writing a personal finance column at a sister publication. Much to everyone’s surprise, her column, ‘The Girl in the Green Scarf’, becomes a hit, and she falls head over high heels (groan) for her handsome, socially aware, and overworked boss (Hugh Dancy). But her secret obsession with shopping threatens to unravel her newfound success.
If I weren’t reviewing it, or more realistically, if I weren’t watching it with someone that was particularly enjoying it, I probably would’ve turned Confessions of a Shopaholic off about halfway through. I found the lead character and what I perceived as the movie’s flat-line message repugnant, and personally let myself get frustrated enough that I’d written the whole thing off as one of the most socially irresponsible movies I’d ever seen. Glorifying credit card debt and frivolous spending? Who the hell did these people think they were? Jerry ‘money buckets’ Bruckheimer’s name on the credits didn’t help my unrealistically angry perception. My hatred peaked with a revolting scene of the film’s idiot heroine adding up her debts in horror, which I immediately contrasted with my own debt adding nightmare. The difference between the exercises is that Rebecca’s debt is due to buying clothes she doesn’t need, while my debt was an accumulation of life saving medical procedures. But I digress.
I was so blinded by anger I almost missed the point of the entire film, one of the major problems of emotional responses to film criticism (reactions to horror films being the most broadly misconstrued). Confessions of a Shopaholic is a very fiscally responsible film in the end, and even goes as far as to stick its protagonist in an emotionally shattering series of events straight out of a drug addiction flick. Rebecca devolves into a full blown junkie, minus track lines, and just short of back alley sexual favours. It’s heavy-handed, but there’s a chance the film had an effect on someone, so I’m willing to forgive a lot of basic filmmaking problems.
Realistic criticism comes in with director P.J. Hogan, who is genuinely better than this, and really should’ve brought more to the table. Structurally speaking the film is about as by the numbers as a romantic comedy can get. It’s numbingly beat for beat, and what’s worse it goes about it in a slow fashion. The whole thing feels about thirty minutes longer than it actually is. The characters are pretty thinly drawn, but they do each have at least a few traits that separate them from every other romantic comedy cipher in recent history. I’m actually quite fond of the film’s main antagonist, Derek Smeath, the bill collector who is slowly revealed over the course of the story. The actors do well with the thin characters as well, pressing the compelling aspects over the cliché aspects, especially the warm-hearted supporting cast.
Confessions of a Shopaholic comes fitted as expected, with a bright and vivaciously colourful 2.35:1, 1080p transfer. Director P.J. Hogan and cinematographer Jo Willems go for that soft and candied Disney look. The look is relatively soft (as if everything were lit through filtered, glowing white lights), and the focus is relatively shallow, so details aren’t a big part of the high definition performance, but they are sharper than the somewhat fuzzy DVD release (as seen in these screencaps). The darker warm tones are a little noisy, and the edges of some of the brightest colours bloom ever so slightly. There’s very little grain or compression over the whole of the transfer. Contrast is even and textures are smooth, but the deepest blacks are still quite rich, and the lightest whites are clean.
Confessions of a Shopaholic may be a Jerry Bruckheimer production, but that doesn’t mean it’s brimming with bombast. There isn’t a single explosion of controlled demolition in the entire thing. Most sound effects are either incidental, or used for a pointed comedic effect. I noticed just about nothing so far as surround effects are concerned, save some echo effects and a few ringing office phones. The all important dialogue, and the majority of crowd noise and the like is diverted to the centre channel, and it all sound very natural, even, and consistent, while making a clear distinction between narration and on-screen dialogue. The majority of stereo and surround (not to mention bass) work comes out of the relatively non-stop soundtrack. One poppy chick-track bleeds into another, with varying volume depending on ‘the feel’ of the scene. It’s not a big workout, but there’s some oomph to the LFE, and a few neat stereo effects (the rear channels are mostly echo effects).
Fans of the film will find a slight extra incentive to purchase the film on Blu-ray format instead of DVD (besides the A/V upgrade) in the form of several brief behind the scenes featurettes. ‘Behind the Fashion’ features ‘Wardrobe by Patricia Field’ (03:00, HD), a look at the costume designer herself, ‘Temple of Shopping’ (02:30, HD), a look at the production design, ‘The Green Scarf’ (01:30, HD), a look at the design of that piece of wardrobe, ‘New York: Fashion Central’ (02:30, HD), a look at shooting in NYC, ‘Sample Sale Madness’ (02:00, HD), a look at filming the shopping frenzy, and ‘Window Shopping’ (02:00, HD) a quick look at the totally unnecessary CG models (I figured they were people in suits, and it has the same effect either way).
The disc also includes the DVD extras, which are four deleted scenes (06:20, HD), a blooper reel (02:00, SD), three music videos, and Disney trailers. The deleted scenes include an entirely context-less gag, a frustrating scene of Rebecca trying to work at a designer store, a failed rooftop kiss, and a writer asking for his own nickname.
Confessions of a Shopaholic isn’t the irresponsible mess I initially thought it was, but it’s still a by-the-numbers exercise in romance, with only minor character twists to make it interesting. It’s also overlong. The video and audio qualities are fine, but not overly impressive, mostly due to the film’s limited A/V ambition. There are some extras available on the Blu-ray that are not available on the DVD, but they’re pretty brief, and not entirely worth the upgrade if you aren’t looking to spend the extra cash.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may not be suitable for children
Release Date: 23rd June 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, and Portuguese
Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish
Extras: Behind the Scenes Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Bloopers, Music Videos, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: P.J. Hogan
Cast: Isla Fisher, Leslie Bibb, Hugh Dancy, John Goodman, Joan Cusack, John Lithgow, Kristin Scott Thomas
Genre: Comedy and Romance
Length: 105 minutes
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