Friday, October 2, 2009

Confessions of a Shopaholic: A Movie Review

Isabel Silva
Intro to Professional Writing
Dr. Noreen O’Connor

Confessions of a Shopaholic: A Movie Review

Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) is finally living the life she’s always dreamed of; she has all the designer bags, shoes, and outfits a girl could ever want- along with 12 credit cards and nearly twenty thousand dollars in debt. Her taste for expensive, beautiful things as well as her inability to resist the urge to shop is beginning to wreak havoc in her life. Rebecca is a shopaholic.

In an attempt to pay off her debts, Rebecca tries to snag a job working for Alette Magazine, a high end fashion publication. Because there are no positions available at Alette, Rebecca decides to try to “get her foot in the door” by, rather ironically, starting at a financial publication called Successful Savings, hoping to eventually make her way up the career ladder and secure a position as a writer for Alette.

Rebecca eventually begins to develop a romance with her boss, Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy), and flourishes as a writer for Successful Savings, her use of shopping experiences as metaphors for financial topics becoming wildly popular with her readers. As her successes grow, so does the difficulty of keeping the secret of her debt and outrunning the debt collector who pursues her throughout the whole film. The rest of the plot details her amusing attempts at therapy as well as the threat that her shopping addiction poses to her career and relationships after word gets out that she, as a writer of financial advice, is thousands of dollars in debt. Rebecca’s adventure through the world of addictive shopping is littered with both funny scenes and touching moments; thankfully, through all of this she eventually finds an innovative solution to her problem and manages to get her life back on track, even though things don’t turn out as she had originally planned for her future.

This sweet, feel-good romantic comedy has a light-hearted and innocent nature that appeals to most any audience but specifically targets “chick-flick” enthusiasts. Viewers will find the characters to be charming and very relatable as well as be able to identify with the situations presented in the film which, although amusing and occasionally over the top, still convey a message about what really matters in life. As funny as Rebecca’s excessive affinity for store windows and outrageous addiction to spending money were, her situation is not entirely unrealistic. Shopping addiction is something that seems to be joked about more than it is taken seriously and this is unfortunate because it, as well as the societal influences which bring it about, are a very real problem in today’s culture.

Shopping addiction is a mental condition in which a person compulsively shops in excess; these sprees are unnecessary and get out of control quickly. The person addicted to shopping has a lack of control over their urges to consume and soon develop very large problems. Ruth Engs EdD. describes the impulse to shop in this way, “Individuals will get some kind of high from an addictive behavior like shopping. Meaning that endorphins and dopamine, naturally occurring opiate receptor sites in the brain, get switched on, and the person feels good, and if it feels good they are more likely to do it -- it's reinforced."

I believe that this was the case with Rebecca. Like most real shopaholics, Rebecca’s addiction was brought on by a childhood event that traumatized her. When she was a child, her mother, concerned with saving money, never allowed her to buy the beautiful things that she desired. Her mother always purchased the same boring shoes for her to wear to school and Rebecca didn’t understand why she couldn’t have the same fancy things as the beautiful women in the department stores; she vowed that when she was grown, her life would be different. This disappointment followed her all her life and as an adult Rebecca turned to shopping to make up for what she missed as a child. The high that Rebecca gets from her shopping sprees is a way to cope with the hurt that she has held on to for so long.

While this movie is meant to be a comedy and it is easy to find humor in the obsession with shopping that so many women are familiar with, I think that this film slightly undermines the seriousness of shopping addictions and what, in our culture, is causing them. A shopping addiction is something that can destroy a person’s life, just as it almost did Rebecca’s. In a society that is so focused on consumption, it is easy for people to become captivated by the idea of having things. What would normally be a perfectly acceptable errand can turn into an out-of-control, destructive addiction. Donald Black, MD says of shopping addictions, "Compulsive shopping and spending are defined as inappropriate, excessive, and out of control. Like other addictions, it basically has to do with impulsiveness and lack of control over one's impulses. In America, shopping is embedded in our culture; so often, the impulsiveness comes out as excessive shopping." The excessive advertisement that is such a large part of our culture probably doesn’t help the situation either.

Everywhere we go we are faced with countless advertisements meant to convince us that we do not have everything we need and that buying more will bring happiness and fulfillment to our lives. This is not the case. I did like however, how this film did not neglect to show that Rebecca’s addiction was bringing her life to ruin. Her compulsive and addictive shopping caused her to lose her job as well as the trust of the most important people in her life. She had closets and closets full of pretty things, but she was losing everything that was most important to her: her relationships, career, and herself. No matter how many Gucci bags or Prada shoes she owned, she was never satisfied; as Rebecca eventually learns in the film, money cannot buy happiness.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, even though I disagree with how shopping addictions are portrayed as more humorous than serious. Even so, the movie was funny and did expose its audience to the prevalent problem of consumerism in society today. I think it is because of our culture’s obsession with having things and spending money that people like Rebecca are losing everything that matters in the pursuit of material happiness, something which satisfies for a time, but in the long run is nothing short of disappointing.

Hatfield, Heather. “Shopping Spree or Addiction?” WebMD.<>.