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Confessions of a Shopaholic

One of the commonplaces of criticism is to speak of "identifying" with heroes and heroines. According to the rough-and-ready armchair psychology that serves us so well in the appreciation of novels and movies, it's important to identify with characters in order to enter into the world created by the writer or the filmmaker. Or, in the alternative, there have to be good reasons for not asking readers and audiences to identify. But identify with whom, exactly? I am a great fan of Kristin Scott Thomas, but I have rarely identified with any character that she has played; rather, I've identified with a suitor, or as a hypothetical competitor to her leading man. Whether naturally or schemingly glamorous, most great actresses makes my antlers tingle. This does not involve identifying with her.

Isla Fisher's magical performance in Confessions of a Shopaholic, which I saw only days before this year's Academy Awards, crystallized these thoughts about where one's mind casts an anchor during unlikely movies. I call her performance "magical" because it opens up depths that the filmmaker (P J Hogan) and his scriptwriters (Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth, and Kayla Alpert) are not interested in exploring. Ms Fisher's revelations are unobtrusive; she does not call attention to the fact that, unlike her last feature film, Definitely, Maybe, Confessions of a Shopaholic can't be bothered with the sharpish drollery that tickles the alert viewer's sense of humor (and preserves his self-respect) while celebrating the required and routine romantic rituals. But she infuses the atmosphere surrounding Rebecca Bloomwood, the title character, with a verve and an intelligence that make the dearth of verbal stimulants far more bearable than it might be. But the most remarkable aspect of Ms Fisher's work here is its almost studied lack of glamour. Notwithstanding all the fabu outfits, Rebecca is no diva. Here's how not a diva she is: she outgoofs Anne Hathaway's personal assistant in The Devil Wears Prada. From the very beginning of the new movie, we know that Rebecca Bloomwood is meant for something better than designer clothes. The film's idea of "better" is fairly limited to Hugh Dancy which isn't so bad, because Mr Dancy gives us a leading man who is just as clearly cut out for the high road. But we're left with the assurance that marriage and motherhood are not going to make Rebecca complacent.

In short, I identified with Rebecca, not with Rebecca's "hypotethical suitor." And I identified with her most keenly when Ms Fisher took advantage of quiet reaction shots to project the soul-crushing weariness of Rebecca's credit-card debt. Confessions of a Shopholic, however constrained its screenplay, however loud its visual luxury, is a film about more than the compulsion to pursue happiness with charge cards. It's about the transaction costs of trading long-term goals for immediate satisfactions, something very few of us aren't all too familiar with. Ms Fisher carries the film from cute premise to deeper realization on her own unpadded shoulders.

During the Awards presentation, I asked myself if I could imagine Isla Fisher winning an Oscar. I had no trouble imagining her deserving one, but the Academy, notoriously, doesn't reward comedy, and Ms Fisher may be our most committed comedian right now. She can be as nutty as Lucille Ball, but then she can peel the bandages off sore wounds without being jarringly mawkish. And she can do both with an immediate conviction that altogether evaporates glamour.

As it happens, Kristin Scott Thomas makes a terrific appearance in Confessions of a Shopaholic, and she is all glamour. Even when, as happens in her small "big" scene, her character (a French fashion editor) becomes impatient, the glamour goes Gothic. Her offer of a plum job rejected, the editor gathers up her dignity and announces, as if biting into a fatal lozenge, "c'est la vie." It is not quite enough to make one stop asking, "What is Kristin Scott Thomas doing in this movie?" But it's hard to imagine who else (besides Helen Mirren) could have played, with such understated but complete menace, the glittering dragon that Rebecca must subdue. And subdue her Rebecca does, with a firming sense of self that is Isla Fisher's most beautiful present to the audience. No dialogue required. (February 2009)

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Copyright (c) 2009 Pourover Press

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Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic

One of the commonplaces of criticism is to speak of "identifying" with heroes and heroines. According to the rough-and-ready armchair psychology that serves us so well in the appreciation of novels and movies, it's important to identify with characters in order to enter into the world created by the writer or the filmmaker. Or, in the alternative, there have to be good reasons for not asking readers and audiences to identify. But identify with whom, exactly? I am a great fan of Kristin Scott Thomas, but I have rarely identified with any character that she has played; rather, I've identified with a suitor, or as a hypothetical competitor to her leading man. Whether naturally or schemingly glamorous, most great actresses makes my antlers tingle. This does not involve identifying with her.

Isla Fisher's magical performance in Confessions of a Shopaholic, which I saw only days before this year's Academy Awards, crystallized these thoughts about where one's mind casts an anchor during unlikely movies. I call her performance "magical" because it opens up depths that the filmmaker (P J Hogan) and his scriptwriters (Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth, and Kayla Alpert) are not interested in exploring. Ms Fisher's revelations are unobtrusive; she does not call attention to the fact that, unlike her last feature film, Definitely, Maybe, Confessions of a Shopaholic can't be bothered with the sharpish drollery that tickles the alert viewer's sense of humor (and preserves his self-respect) while celebrating the required and routine romantic rituals. But she infuses the atmosphere surrounding Rebecca Bloomwood, the title character, with a verve and an intelligence that make the dearth of verbal stimulants far more bearable than it might be. But the most remarkable aspect of Ms Fisher's work here is its almost studied lack of glamour. Notwithstanding all the fabu outfits, Rebecca is no diva. Here's how not a diva she is: she outgoofs Anne Hathaway's personal assistant in The Devil Wears Prada. From the very beginning of the new movie, we know that Rebecca Bloomwood is meant for something better than designer clothes. The film's idea of "better" is fairly limited to Hugh Dancy which isn't so bad, because Mr Dancy gives us a leading man who is just as clearly cut out for the high road. But we're left with the assurance that marriage and motherhood are not going to make Rebecca complacent.

In short, I identified with Rebecca, not with Rebecca's "hypotethical suitor." And I identified with her most keenly when Ms Fisher took advantage of quiet reaction shots to project the soul-crushing weariness of Rebecca's credit-card debt. Confessions of a Shopholic, however constrained its screenplay, however loud its visual luxury, is a film about more than the compulsion to pursue happiness with charge cards. It's about the transaction costs of trading long-term goals for immediate satisfactions, something very few of us aren't all too familiar with. Ms Fisher carries the film from cute premise to deeper realization on her own unpadded shoulders.

During the Awards presentation, I asked myself if I could imagine Isla Fisher winning an Oscar. I had no trouble imagining her deserving one, but the Academy, notoriously, doesn't reward comedy, and Ms Fisher may be our most committed comedian right now. She can be as nutty as Lucille Ball, but then she can peel the bandages off sore wounds without being jarringly mawkish. And she can do both with an immediate conviction that altogether evaporates glamour.

As it happens, Kristin Scott Thomas makes a terrific appearance in Confessions of a Shopaholic, and she is all glamour. Even when, as happens in her small "big" scene, her character (a French fashion editor) becomes impatient, the glamour goes Gothic. Her offer of a plum job rejected, the editor gathers up her dignity and announces, as if biting into a fatal lozenge, "c'est la vie." It is not quite enough to make one stop asking, "What is Kristin Scott Thomas doing in this movie?" But it's hard to imagine who else (besides Helen Mirren) could have played, with such understated but complete menace, the glittering dragon that Rebecca must subdue. And subdue her Rebecca does, with a firming sense of self that is Isla Fisher's most beautiful present to the audience. No dialogue required. (February 2009)

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Copyright (c) 2009 Pourover Press

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Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic

One of the commonplaces of criticism is to speak of "identifying" with heroes and heroines. According to the rough-and-ready armchair psychology that serves us so well in the appreciation of novels and movies, it's important to identify with characters in order to enter into the world created by the writer or the filmmaker. Or, in the alternative, there have to be good reasons for not asking readers and audiences to identify. But identify with whom, exactly? I am a great fan of Kristin Scott Thomas, but I have rarely identified with any character that she has played; rather, I've identified with a suitor, or as a hypothetical competitor to her leading man. Whether naturally or schemingly glamorous, most great actresses makes my antlers tingle. This does not involve identifying with her.

Isla Fisher's magical performance in Confessions of a Shopaholic, which I saw only days before this year's Academy Awards, crystallized these thoughts about where one's mind casts an anchor during unlikely movies. I call her performance "magical" because it opens up depths that the filmmaker (P J Hogan) and his scriptwriters (Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth, and Kayla Alpert) are not interested in exploring. Ms Fisher's revelations are unobtrusive; she does not call attention to the fact that, unlike her last feature film, Definitely, Maybe, Confessions of a Shopaholic can't be bothered with the sharpish drollery that tickles the alert viewer's sense of humor (and preserves his self-respect) while celebrating the required and routine romantic rituals. But she infuses the atmosphere surrounding Rebecca Bloomwood, the title character, with a verve and an intelligence that make the dearth of verbal stimulants far more bearable than it might be. But the most remarkable aspect of Ms Fisher's work here is its almost studied lack of glamour. Notwithstanding all the fabu outfits, Rebecca is no diva. Here's how not a diva she is: she outgoofs Anne Hathaway's personal assistant in The Devil Wears Prada. From the very beginning of the new movie, we know that Rebecca Bloomwood is meant for something better than designer clothes. The film's idea of "better" is fairly limited to Hugh Dancy which isn't so bad, because Mr Dancy gives us a leading man who is just as clearly cut out for the high road. But we're left with the assurance that marriage and motherhood are not going to make Rebecca complacent.

In short, I identified with Rebecca, not with Rebecca's "hypotethical suitor." And I identified with her most keenly when Ms Fisher took advantage of quiet reaction shots to project the soul-crushing weariness of Rebecca's credit-card debt. Confessions of a Shopholic, however constrained its screenplay, however loud its visual luxury, is a film about more than the compulsion to pursue happiness with charge cards. It's about the transaction costs of trading long-term goals for immediate satisfactions, something very few of us aren't all too familiar with. Ms Fisher carries the film from cute premise to deeper realization on her own unpadded shoulders.

During the Awards presentation, I asked myself if I could imagine Isla Fisher winning an Oscar. I had no trouble imagining her deserving one, but the Academy, notoriously, doesn't reward comedy, and Ms Fisher may be our most committed comedian right now. She can be as nutty as Lucille Ball, but then she can peel the bandages off sore wounds without being jarringly mawkish. And she can do both with an immediate conviction that altogether evaporates glamour.

As it happens, Kristin Scott Thomas makes a terrific appearance in Confessions of a Shopaholic, and she is all glamour. Even when, as happens in her small "big" scene, her character (a French fashion editor) becomes impatient, the glamour goes Gothic. Her offer of a plum job rejected, the editor gathers up her dignity and announces, as if biting into a fatal lozenge, "c'est la vie." It is not quite enough to make one stop asking, "What is Kristin Scott Thomas doing in this movie?" But it's hard to imagine who else (besides Helen Mirren) could have played, with such understated but complete menace, the glittering dragon that Rebecca must subdue. And subdue her Rebecca does, with a firming sense of self that is Isla Fisher's most beautiful present to the audience. No dialogue required. (February 2009)

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Copyright (c) 2009 Pourover Press

Write to me   

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic

One of the commonplaces of criticism is to speak of "identifying" with heroes and heroines. According to the rough-and-ready armchair psychology that serves us so well in the appreciation of novels and movies, it's important to identify with characters in order to enter into the world created by the writer or the filmmaker. Or, in the alternative, there have to be good reasons for not asking readers and audiences to identify. But identify with whom, exactly? I am a great fan of Kristin Scott Thomas, but I have rarely identified with any character that she has played; rather, I've identified with a suitor, or as a hypothetical competitor to her leading man. Whether naturally or schemingly glamorous, most great actresses makes my antlers tingle. This does not involve identifying with her.

Isla Fisher's magical performance in Confessions of a Shopaholic, which I saw only days before this year's Academy Awards, crystallized these thoughts about where one's mind casts an anchor during unlikely movies. I call her performance "magical" because it opens up depths that the filmmaker (P J Hogan) and his scriptwriters (Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth, and Kayla Alpert) are not interested in exploring. Ms Fisher's revelations are unobtrusive; she does not call attention to the fact that, unlike her last feature film, Definitely, Maybe, Confessions of a Shopaholic can't be bothered with the sharpish drollery that tickles the alert viewer's sense of humor (and preserves his self-respect) while celebrating the required and routine romantic rituals. But she infuses the atmosphere surrounding Rebecca Bloomwood, the title character, with a verve and an intelligence that make the dearth of verbal stimulants far more bearable than it might be. But the most remarkable aspect of Ms Fisher's work here is its almost studied lack of glamour. Notwithstanding all the fabu outfits, Rebecca is no diva. Here's how not a diva she is: she outgoofs Anne Hathaway's personal assistant in The Devil Wears Prada. From the very beginning of the new movie, we know that Rebecca Bloomwood is meant for something better than designer clothes. The film's idea of "better" is fairly limited to Hugh Dancy which isn't so bad, because Mr Dancy gives us a leading man who is just as clearly cut out for the high road. But we're left with the assurance that marriage and motherhood are not going to make Rebecca complacent.

In short, I identified with Rebecca, not with Rebecca's "hypotethical suitor." And I identified with her most keenly when Ms Fisher took advantage of quiet reaction shots to project the soul-crushing weariness of Rebecca's credit-card debt. Confessions of a Shopholic, however constrained its screenplay, however loud its visual luxury, is a film about more than the compulsion to pursue happiness with charge cards. It's about the transaction costs of trading long-term goals for immediate satisfactions, something very few of us aren't all too familiar with. Ms Fisher carries the film from cute premise to deeper realization on her own unpadded shoulders.

During the Awards presentation, I asked myself if I could imagine Isla Fisher winning an Oscar. I had no trouble imagining her deserving one, but the Academy, notoriously, doesn't reward comedy, and Ms Fisher may be our most committed comedian right now. She can be as nutty as Lucille Ball, but then she can peel the bandages off sore wounds without being jarringly mawkish. And she can do both with an immediate conviction that altogether evaporates glamour.

As it happens, Kristin Scott Thomas makes a terrific appearance in Confessions of a Shopaholic, and she is all glamour. Even when, as happens in her small "big" scene, her character (a French fashion editor) becomes impatient, the glamour goes Gothic. Her offer of a plum job rejected, the editor gathers up her dignity and announces, as if biting into a fatal lozenge, "c'est la vie." It is not quite enough to make one stop asking, "What is Kristin Scott Thomas doing in this movie?" But it's hard to imagine who else (besides Helen Mirren) could have played, with such understated but complete menace, the glittering dragon that Rebecca must subdue. And subdue her Rebecca does, with a firming sense of self that is Isla Fisher's most beautiful present to the audience. No dialogue required. (February 2009)

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Copyright (c) 2009 Pourover Press

Write to me   

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic

One of the commonplaces of criticism is to speak of "identifying" with heroes and heroines. According to the rough-and-ready armchair psychology that serves us so well in the appreciation of novels and movies, it's important to identify with characters in order to enter into the world created by the writer or the filmmaker. Or, in the alternative, there have to be good reasons for not asking readers and audiences to identify. But identify with whom, exactly? I am a great fan of Kristin Scott Thomas, but I have rarely identified with any character that she has played; rather, I've identified with a suitor, or as a hypothetical competitor to her leading man. Whether naturally or schemingly glamorous, most great actresses makes my antlers tingle. This does not involve identifying with her.

Isla Fisher's magical performance in Confessions of a Shopaholic, which I saw only days before this year's Academy Awards, crystallized these thoughts about where one's mind casts an anchor during unlikely movies. I call her performance "magical" because it opens up depths that the filmmaker (P J Hogan) and his scriptwriters (Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth, and Kayla Alpert) are not interested in exploring. Ms Fisher's revelations are unobtrusive; she does not call attention to the fact that, unlike her last feature film, Definitely, Maybe, Confessions of a Shopaholic can't be bothered with the sharpish drollery that tickles the alert viewer's sense of humor (and preserves his self-respect) while celebrating the required and routine romantic rituals. But she infuses the atmosphere surrounding Rebecca Bloomwood, the title character, with a verve and an intelligence that make the dearth of verbal stimulants far more bearable than it might be. But the most remarkable aspect of Ms Fisher's work here is its almost studied lack of glamour. Notwithstanding all the fabu outfits, Rebecca is no diva. Here's how not a diva she is: she outgoofs Anne Hathaway's personal assistant in The Devil Wears Prada. From the very beginning of the new movie, we know that Rebecca Bloomwood is meant for something better than designer clothes. The film's idea of "better" is fairly limited to Hugh Dancy which isn't so bad, because Mr Dancy gives us a leading man who is just as clearly cut out for the high road. But we're left with the assurance that marriage and motherhood are not going to make Rebecca complacent.

In short, I identified with Rebecca, not with Rebecca's "hypotethical suitor." And I identified with her most keenly when Ms Fisher took advantage of quiet reaction shots to project the soul-crushing weariness of Rebecca's credit-card debt. Confessions of a Shopholic, however constrained its screenplay, however loud its visual luxury, is a film about more than the compulsion to pursue happiness with charge cards. It's about the transaction costs of trading long-term goals for immediate satisfactions, something very few of us aren't all too familiar with. Ms Fisher carries the film from cute premise to deeper realization on her own unpadded shoulders.

During the Awards presentation, I asked myself if I could imagine Isla Fisher winning an Oscar. I had no trouble imagining her deserving one, but the Academy, notoriously, doesn't reward comedy, and Ms Fisher may be our most committed comedian right now. She can be as nutty as Lucille Ball, but then she can peel the bandages off sore wounds without being jarringly mawkish. And she can do both with an immediate conviction that altogether evaporates glamour.

As it happens, Kristin Scott Thomas makes a terrific appearance in Confessions of a Shopaholic, and she is all glamour. Even when, as happens in her small "big" scene, her character (a French fashion editor) becomes impatient, the glamour goes Gothic. Her offer of a plum job rejected, the editor gathers up her dignity and announces, as if biting into a fatal lozenge, "c'est la vie." It is not quite enough to make one stop asking, "What is Kristin Scott Thomas doing in this movie?" But it's hard to imagine who else (besides Helen Mirren) could have played, with such understated but complete menace, the glittering dragon that Rebecca must subdue. And subdue her Rebecca does, with a firming sense of self that is Isla Fisher's most beautiful present to the audience. No dialogue required. (February 2009)

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Copyright (c) 2009 Pourover Press

Write to me   

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic

One of the commonplaces of criticism is to speak of "identifying" with heroes and heroines. According to the rough-and-ready armchair psychology that serves us so well in the appreciation of novels and movies, it's important to identify with characters in order to enter into the world created by the writer or the filmmaker. Or, in the alternative, there have to be good reasons for not asking readers and audiences to identify. But identify with whom, exactly? I am a great fan of Kristin Scott Thomas, but I have rarely identified with any character that she has played; rather, I've identified with a suitor, or as a hypothetical competitor to her leading man. Whether naturally or schemingly glamorous, most great actresses makes my antlers tingle. This does not involve identifying with her.

Isla Fisher's magical performance in Confessions of a Shopaholic, which I saw only days before this year's Academy Awards, crystallized these thoughts about where one's mind casts an anchor during unlikely movies. I call her performance "magical" because it opens up depths that the filmmaker (P J Hogan) and his scriptwriters (Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth, and Kayla Alpert) are not interested in exploring. Ms Fisher's revelations are unobtrusive; she does not call attention to the fact that, unlike her last feature film, Definitely, Maybe, Confessions of a Shopaholic can't be bothered with the sharpish drollery that tickles the alert viewer's sense of humor (and preserves his self-respect) while celebrating the required and routine romantic rituals. But she infuses the atmosphere surrounding Rebecca Bloomwood, the title character, with a verve and an intelligence that make the dearth of verbal stimulants far more bearable than it might be. But the most remarkable aspect of Ms Fisher's work here is its almost studied lack of glamour. Notwithstanding all the fabu outfits, Rebecca is no diva. Here's how not a diva she is: she outgoofs Anne Hathaway's personal assistant in The Devil Wears Prada. From the very beginning of the new movie, we know that Rebecca Bloomwood is meant for something better than designer clothes. The film's idea of "better" is fairly limited to Hugh Dancy which isn't so bad, because Mr Dancy gives us a leading man who is just as clearly cut out for the high road. But we're left with the assurance that marriage and motherhood are not going to make Rebecca complacent.

In short, I identified with Rebecca, not with Rebecca's "hypotethical suitor." And I identified with her most keenly when Ms Fisher took advantage of quiet reaction shots to project the soul-crushing weariness of Rebecca's credit-card debt. Confessions of a Shopholic, however constrained its screenplay, however loud its visual luxury, is a film about more than the compulsion to pursue happiness with charge cards. It's about the transaction costs of trading long-term goals for immediate satisfactions, something very few of us aren't all too familiar with. Ms Fisher carries the film from cute premise to deeper realization on her own unpadded shoulders.

During the Awards presentation, I asked myself if I could imagine Isla Fisher winning an Oscar. I had no trouble imagining her deserving one, but the Academy, notoriously, doesn't reward comedy, and Ms Fisher may be our most committed comedian right now. She can be as nutty as Lucille Ball, but then she can peel the bandages off sore wounds without being jarringly mawkish. And she can do both with an immediate conviction that altogether evaporates glamour.

As it happens, Kristin Scott Thomas makes a terrific appearance in Confessions of a Shopaholic, and she is all glamour. Even when, as happens in her small "big" scene, her character (a French fashion editor) becomes impatient, the glamour goes Gothic. Her offer of a plum job rejected, the editor gathers up her dignity and announces, as if biting into a fatal lozenge, "c'est la vie." It is not quite enough to make one stop asking, "What is Kristin Scott Thomas doing in this movie?" But it's hard to imagine who else (besides Helen Mirren) could have played, with such understated but complete menace, the glittering dragon that Rebecca must subdue. And subdue her Rebecca does, with a firming sense of self that is Isla Fisher's most beautiful present to the audience. No dialogue required. (February 2009)

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Copyright (c) 2009 Pourover Press

Write to me   

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic

One of the commonplaces of criticism is to speak of "identifying" with heroes and heroines. According to the rough-and-ready armchair psychology that serves us so well in the appreciation of novels and movies, it's important to identify with characters in order to enter into the world created by the writer or the filmmaker. Or, in the alternative, there have to be good reasons for not asking readers and audiences to identify. But identify with whom, exactly? I am a great fan of Kristin Scott Thomas, but I have rarely identified with any character that she has played; rather, I've identified with a suitor, or as a hypothetical competitor to her leading man. Whether naturally or schemingly glamorous, most great actresses makes my antlers tingle. This does not involve identifying with her.

Isla Fisher's magical performance in Confessions of a Shopaholic, which I saw only days before this year's Academy Awards, crystallized these thoughts about where one's mind casts an anchor during unlikely movies. I call her performance "magical" because it opens up depths that the filmmaker (P J Hogan) and his scriptwriters (Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth, and Kayla Alpert) are not interested in exploring. Ms Fisher's revelations are unobtrusive; she does not call attention to the fact that, unlike her last feature film, Definitely, Maybe, Confessions of a Shopaholic can't be bothered with the sharpish drollery that tickles the alert viewer's sense of humor (and preserves his self-respect) while celebrating the required and routine romantic rituals. But she infuses the atmosphere surrounding Rebecca Bloomwood, the title character, with a verve and an intelligence that make the dearth of verbal stimulants far more bearable than it might be. But the most remarkable aspect of Ms Fisher's work here is its almost studied lack of glamour. Notwithstanding all the fabu outfits, Rebecca is no diva. Here's how not a diva she is: she outgoofs Anne Hathaway's personal assistant in The Devil Wears Prada. From the very beginning of the new movie, we know that Rebecca Bloomwood is meant for something better than designer clothes. The film's idea of "better" is fairly limited to Hugh Dancy which isn't so bad, because Mr Dancy gives us a leading man who is just as clearly cut out for the high road. But we're left with the assurance that marriage and motherhood are not going to make Rebecca complacent.

In short, I identified with Rebecca, not with Rebecca's "hypotethical suitor." And I identified with her most keenly when Ms Fisher took advantage of quiet reaction shots to project the soul-crushing weariness of Rebecca's credit-card debt. Confessions of a Shopholic, however constrained its screenplay, however loud its visual luxury, is a film about more than the compulsion to pursue happiness with charge cards. It's about the transaction costs of trading long-term goals for immediate satisfactions, something very few of us aren't all too familiar with. Ms Fisher carries the film from cute premise to deeper realization on her own unpadded shoulders.

During the Awards presentation, I asked myself if I could imagine Isla Fisher winning an Oscar. I had no trouble imagining her deserving one, but the Academy, notoriously, doesn't reward comedy, and Ms Fisher may be our most committed comedian right now. She can be as nutty as Lucille Ball, but then she can peel the bandages off sore wounds without being jarringly mawkish. And she can do both with an immediate conviction that altogether evaporates glamour.

As it happens, Kristin Scott Thomas makes a terrific appearance in Confessions of a Shopaholic, and she is all glamour. Even when, as happens in her small "big" scene, her character (a French fashion editor) becomes impatient, the glamour goes Gothic. Her offer of a plum job rejected, the editor gathers up her dignity and announces, as if biting into a fatal lozenge, "c'est la vie." It is not quite enough to make one stop asking, "What is Kristin Scott Thomas doing in this movie?" But it's hard to imagine who else (besides Helen Mirren) could have played, with such understated but complete menace, the glittering dragon that Rebecca must subdue. And subdue her Rebecca does, with a firming sense of self that is Isla Fisher's most beautiful present to the audience. No dialogue required. (February 2009)

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Copyright (c) 2009 Pourover Press

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Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic

One of the commonplaces of criticism is to speak of "identifying" with heroes and heroines. According to the rough-and-ready armchair psychology that serves us so well in the appreciation of novels and movies, it's important to identify with characters in order to enter into the world created by the writer or the filmmaker. Or, in the alternative, there have to be good reasons for not asking readers and audiences to identify. But identify with whom, exactly? I am a great fan of Kristin Scott Thomas, but I have rarely identified with any character that she has played; rather, I've identified with a suitor, or as a hypothetical competitor to her leading man. Whether naturally or schemingly glamorous, most great actresses makes my antlers tingle. This does not involve identifying with her.

Isla Fisher's magical performance in Confessions of a Shopaholic, which I saw only days before this year's Academy Awards, crystallized these thoughts about where one's mind casts an anchor during unlikely movies. I call her performance "magical" because it opens up depths that the filmmaker (P J Hogan) and his scriptwriters (Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth, and Kayla Alpert) are not interested in exploring. Ms Fisher's revelations are unobtrusive; she does not call attention to the fact that, unlike her last feature film, Definitely, Maybe, Confessions of a Shopaholic can't be bothered with the sharpish drollery that tickles the alert viewer's sense of humor (and preserves his self-respect) while celebrating the required and routine romantic rituals. But she infuses the atmosphere surrounding Rebecca Bloomwood, the title character, with a verve and an intelligence that make the dearth of verbal stimulants far more bearable than it might be. But the most remarkable aspect of Ms Fisher's work here is its almost studied lack of glamour. Notwithstanding all the fabu outfits, Rebecca is no diva. Here's how not a diva she is: she outgoofs Anne Hathaway's personal assistant in The Devil Wears Prada. From the very beginning of the new movie, we know that Rebecca Bloomwood is meant for something better than designer clothes. The film's idea of "better" is fairly limited to Hugh Dancy which isn't so bad, because Mr Dancy gives us a leading man who is just as clearly cut out for the high road. But we're left with the assurance that marriage and motherhood are not going to make Rebecca complacent.

In short, I identified with Rebecca, not with Rebecca's "hypotethical suitor." And I identified with her most keenly when Ms Fisher took advantage of quiet reaction shots to project the soul-crushing weariness of Rebecca's credit-card debt. Confessions of a Shopholic, however constrained its screenplay, however loud its visual luxury, is a film about more than the compulsion to pursue happiness with charge cards. It's about the transaction costs of trading long-term goals for immediate satisfactions, something very few of us aren't all too familiar with. Ms Fisher carries the film from cute premise to deeper realization on her own unpadded shoulders.

During the Awards presentation, I asked myself if I could imagine Isla Fisher winning an Oscar. I had no trouble imagining her deserving one, but the Academy, notoriously, doesn't reward comedy, and Ms Fisher may be our most committed comedian right now. She can be as nutty as Lucille Ball, but then she can peel the bandages off sore wounds without being jarringly mawkish. And she can do both with an immediate conviction that altogether evaporates glamour.

As it happens, Kristin Scott Thomas makes a terrific appearance in Confessions of a Shopaholic, and she is all glamour. Even when, as happens in her small "big" scene, her character (a French fashion editor) becomes impatient, the glamour goes Gothic. Her offer of a plum job rejected, the editor gathers up her dignity and announces, as if biting into a fatal lozenge, "c'est la vie." It is not quite enough to make one stop asking, "What is Kristin Scott Thomas doing in this movie?" But it's hard to imagine who else (besides Helen Mirren) could have played, with such understated but complete menace, the glittering dragon that Rebecca must subdue. And subdue her Rebecca does, with a firming sense of self that is Isla Fisher's most beautiful present to the audience. No dialogue required. (February 2009)

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Copyright (c) 2009 Pourover Press

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