The timing of "Confessions of a Shopaholic" couldn't be weirder, given the economic meltdown, the moral clucking about credit and the New Puritanism re: our nation's reckless hunger for instant gratification. Director P.J. Hogan ("My Best Friend's Wedding") couldn't have foreseen that what once probably seemed like just a wacky idea about shopping addiction would become a metaphor for American profligacy. But that's the thing about comedy: Timing is everything.
So is casting, and Isla Fisher ("Definitely, Maybe") is carrying this often stylish comedy on her Prada-upholstered back. As Rebecca Bloomwood, she's a journalist, which means that for all her Marc Jacobs taste, she has a T.J. Maxx budget. But she's determined to move up in the world - and perhaps pay off her credit cards - by getting hired at Alette magazine (see: Vogue), which exists in a world where frugality equals death. Instead, she gets hired by Luke Branson (Hugh Dancy) to write about personal savings at his struggling finance magazine.
This is what in Hollywood they call "irony." It also spells romance: For all her compulsive neuroses, Rebecca is a charmer, and a love affair is always right around the corner.
Usually in comedies of this sort, the ancillary characters are key, but with the exception of Rebecca's pal Suze (Krysten Ritter), everyone outside of Fisher is pretty much coasting; Kristin Scott Thomas, as Alette magazine's editor, is trying to put her own spin on "The Devil Wears Prada" she-wolf shtick and it's not so good. Neither is Dancy as the requisite Brit heartthrob. Hey, Hollywood: Want to salvage the American economy? Hire some Americans!
PLOT Profligate consumer sees error of her ways, finds love and success despite being a hard-core Barneys junkie.
CAST Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Krysten Ritter, Kristin Scott Thomas
PLAYING AT Showtimes and tickets at area theaters
BOTTOM LINE Isla Fisher is a delight, and despite harebrained story line, the addicted-to-credit issue gives comedy some heft.