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MP Dunleavey

Women in Red

Transgressions of a 'Shopaholic'

A new Hollywood movie, like others before it, skips over the unglamorous real-life solutions to money woes, preferring a Prada'd prince for the damsel in debt distress.

[Related content: debt, credit cards, bills, economy, MP Dunleavey]
By MP Dunleavey
MSN Money

Tell me where you've heard this before:

A hapless credit card addict with zero financial acumen miraculously lands a column, writing about . . . money!

This Ms. Debtsky is a natural at crafting financial metaphors from the stuff of ordinary life (like shoes and coats), and her plain-speaking column reaches readers and becomes an unexpected success.

Why does that story line sound familiar? Is that because it bears a striking resemblance to THIS VERY COLUMN -- or because it's the plot of Hollywood's latest money fumble, "Confessions of a Shopaholic"?

If you answered "C" -- both of the above -- you get to be part of my legal team, fighting to get me some royalties. Or at least helping me get back the $12.50 I paid for the movie ticket.

But enough about me. Let's talk about how and why "Shopaholic" fails -- and betrays women in particular.

Reality exits early

The most telling moment of the movie, for me, was when shopaholic Becky Bloomwood (played by the bouncy Isla Fisher) tries to defrost one of her credit cards, which she has frozen in a block of ice.

In her desperation to free her last source of credit, Becky throws the ice block on the floor. Again and again. She pounds it with a stiletto! She deploys a hair dryer!

Hello? Hot water? Hot water, anyone? What about the microwave?

Yes, I know it's a movie, but this scene serves as a metaphor for the movie's complete lack of insight with regard to spending, debt or credit cards. Or ice.

The plot goes something like this: Becky skids to glory supposedly because her magazine column, The Girl With the Green Scarf, is fearlessly frank about money.

Meanwhile, her dark secret is that she is carrying some $16,000 in credit card debt, and she can't stop shopping.

Becky's trust-funded roommate, Suze -- they share Suze's parents' downtown Manhattan apartment -- is the only one who knows the truth.

Suze tries to bail out Becky, with self-help tapes, by nudging her into Shopaholics Anonymous and with the old "let's get the tequila and tally up those bills" technique. Nothing works.

Becky, who has conversations with store mannequins and is willing to blow off deadlines for a designer sample sale, is hopelessly hooked on the high she gets from luxury goods and the sheer joy of buying, buying, buying.

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At one point, Becky's boss, Luke Brandon (played by the mouthwatering Hugh Dancy), confronts her about why she'd lied about her debt. A tearful Becky tries to explain her habit: "Shopping made my life better. But it wouldn't last. So I'd do it again."

These are familiar feelings for anyone with a shopping habit, present or past. But the story's soul-searching ends there.

Mocking the economy

I know, it's not Hollywood's job to be honest. "Shopaholic" is a comedy, and it delivers on that front. In one scene, Becky and Luke do a nutty Latin improv that had me totally ROFLMAO.

But the movie fails miserably when it puts a lighthearted gloss over the very issues that are unraveling our economy.

Continued: 'The timing is all wrong'

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