February 23, 2009
Family Film (Tween) Blogging: Confessions of a Shopaholic
Posted by Christine Hurt

So, I guess my daughter and I are graduating to movies with adult themes that are rated PG so that tweens can use their vast purchasing power to increase the box office.  This weekend's offering was Confessions of a Shopaholic with Isla Fisher, who is very cute and funny, even with the tamer material (than Wedding Crashers).  The theme of the movie is interesting to those of us who think about consumer credit and consumer spending in general.  The movie is not preachy, but ultimately does make the point that crazed clothes shopping is not a good investment for anyone.

So, the basic set-up is that Rebecca (Becky) Bloomwood, a writer for a gardening magazine, suddenly finds herself with maxed-out credit cards and no job when the magazine's founder retires.  Bolstered by her best friend and an enormous amount of tequila, she adds up her mounting debt, which is over $16k.  (I think it's interesting that her debt, while jaw-dropping, is not disgust-inspiring.  She must be a sympathetic character, after all, and not beyond redemption.)  Through a fluke in her drunken mailing of resumes, she lands a job at (irony, irony) a personal finance magazine and becomes a huge hit with a column called "The Girl in the Green Scarf." 

What I liked about the movie was that it is not a rescue story.  Becky ultimately pays off all of her debts by herself.  Although she knows at least three people who could help her financially (her parents, her Shopaholic's Anonymous pal who is a "former NBA star," and her Anderson Cooper-like love interest, who wants to be an investigative journalist without drawing on his mother's name or fortune), she never asks them for money.  She also realizes that many people choose not to shop at Barney's, even if they can (her parents, the Anderson Cooper-like love interest).  These people understand the difference between "worth" and "cost."  Ultimately, they show her that the best investment someone can make is in themselves.  As a counterpoint, for example, our romantic journalist borrows money to start his own magazine.

I thought the movie was good for our tween to see -- credit cards are exposed as not being magical, dream lives are ruined by debt collectors.  But, the debt collector, though really nerdy looking, isn't portrayed as the real one to blame here.  As Becky admits, he was doing something that had to be done, but he did it in the most inconvenient way.  Becky never blames anyone else for her failings, and no one lets her off the hook.  But of course, after she admits her double life, she gets a second chance.

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