Playing Rebecca Bloomwood, the blissfully clothes-crazy heroine of Confessions of a Shopaholic, Isla Fisher walks around with the mad gleam of a true believer. She's utterly rational as well (you can't talk her out of buying things she's too busy trying to talk herself into them), and it's that flaky combination that makes her an addict for our times. When Rebecca goes into a store, preferably of designer vintage, she's in her own yum-yum version of paradise. She wants needs to acquire dresses, shoes, belts, handbags. That fantastic diaphanous forest-green scarf? She simply must have it! Each of these things is a magical object that will upgrade her identity, making her over into something as gorgeous and perfect as the clothes themselves.
Based on Sophie Kinsella's fluffier-than-air novels, Confessions of a Shopaholic may have been shot before the economic crisis, but as the cautionary tale of one girl's protracted shopping meltdown, it's actually quite timely. It takes only a few scenes for Rebecca to learn that she has maxed out her credit cards, and when she lands a job at Successful Saving magazine, her atonement begins. (The gig she actually wanted, at the girly fashion bible Alette, was already taken.) This is a role you would imagine might be filled, with cheesy-klutzy charm, by Kate Hudson or Sandra Bullock. But Fisher has her own brain-working-a-mile- a-minute adorable magnetism, with eyes that widen like a naughty child's and a smile so vivacious it could light up the next three rooms. Breathless and petite yet powerfully in-your-face, Fisher combines dizzy femininity and no-nonsense verve in the manner of a classic screwball heroine. She's like Carole Lombard reborn as a tiny angel-faced dynamo.
In movies from Pretty Woman to Sex and the City, the fun of couture capitalism has been a grown-up-girls-play- dress-up guilty pleasure. The disreputable, spangly-headed joy of Confessions of a Shopaholic is that, as directed with infectious verve by P.J. Hogan (My Best Friend's Wedding) and starring costumes by Patricia Field that look froufy-chic enough to eat the movie makes no apologies about its heroine's addictive craving for clothes. (It has no illusions about it, either.) After writing a finance article based on that telltale green scarf, Rebecca becomes a star columnist, and she falls for her editor, played by Hugh Dancy, who's like a warmer James McAvoy with Hugh Grant's rare gift for making insecurity debonair. Yes, Shopaholic is Bridget Jones meets SATC, but the film is weirdly liberated by barely having the pretense of, you know, a plot. It's just a moonstruck whirl of parties and buying sprees, with a few very funny Shopaholics Anonymous meetings thrown in, as Rebecca works to get control of her obsession. From its talking storewindow mannequins to its sneaky debauched heroine, the movie is romantic-comedy fizz, but it's fizz that bubbles like champagne. A–