Reading the Screen: Confessions of a Shopaholic
Posted by: David Pitt
I watched Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009), the movie based on the first two Shopaholic novels by Sophie Kinsella, and I was pleasantly surprised. Truthfully, I hadn’t expected much. Isla Fisher seemed a good choice for Becky Bloomwood, the financial writer with a serious shopping addiction, but I wasn’t thrilled they were transplanting the books to U.S., turning the British Becky into an American.
But they actually did a pretty good job. The movie is based on Confessions of a Shopaholic (2001) and its sequel Shopaholic Takes Manhattan (2002), and director P.J. Hogan and the screenwriters (three of them) clearly understand the books. They’re light comedies with with romantic overtones, and so is the movie. Fisher is, as I’d suspected she’d be, excellent as Becky. The second book is set mostly in New York, so setting the entire movie there is less of a leap than it might have been — think of it as streamlining the story, giving it a central location (and, not incidentally, making the movie’s budget much more manageable).
There are missteps. Hugh Dancy, as love interest Luke Brandon, is seriously miscast. If you’ve read the books — I have, and you should, too: they’re a lot of fun — you have a very clear picture of Luke in your mind, and the slightly built, unprepossessing Dancy ain’t him. Sorry, Mr. Dancy. You’re a good actor, but this wasn’t the role for you. (On the other hand, John Goodman and Joan Cusack, as Becky’s parents, are dead-on perfect.)
I also thought the movie tried too hard, in its opening scenes, to achieve the frantic comic tone that Kinsella, in the books, develops more gradually. But it’s not too long before the movie settles down and lets Fisher prove just how talented she is. She sells the movie, and, more importantly: she sells the books. She might not be British, but she is in every other way the Becky Bloomwood we imagine when we read the books.
Maybe you don’t believe me. Fair enough. Tell you what. Go watch the movie, read the two novels it’s based on, and get back to me.