Film (with rating): Confessions of a Shopaholic (PG)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Summary: A flat-broke shopaholic dreams of penning fashion articles for hip magazines to support her habit, but instead is hired to write a financial advice column for a struggling publication.
Review: Well, to start, the timing of this movie is unbelievably horrid. How in the world did the studio think a movie about compulsive and irresponsible shopping would appeal to the masses now when most of us are trying to pay our bills while still affording food and toothpaste? Add to that the lame premise, the insulting female stereotypes, the belittling slant on journalism (“I guess I’ll write about finances. What, like it’s hard or something?”) and the brainlessly shallow novels by Sophie Kinsella on which this film is based, and you’ve got “Shopaholic.” It also offers absolutely no insight into being financially responsible, but with a name like “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” what did I expect? On the flip side, Isla Fisher in the starring role is actually delightful to watch. Her brilliant turn in “Wedding Crashers” proved she is a comedic force to be noticed. She wastes her talent here, but at least it adds to the film considerably and saves it from flopping. Plus, the couture is pretty fabulous. This is no “Devil Wears Prada” (also based on one of THE worst books I’ve ever read) nor is it as smart as “Mad Money.” But it is glorified silliness. “Shopaholic” does offer a bit of comedy and some much-needed escapism into fantasy. Even if we all don’t have bulging purses right now, we can pretend, for about two hours, that we do.
Extra highlight: Bloopers.
What to serve for dinner: We may not be able to shop rich, but we can eat rich. Try
Chateaubriand with portobello-bacon sauce, from New York Magazine (2002).
8 and 1/4 cups beef broth (low-salt if using canned)
1 bottle Merlot (or other red wine with mellow tannins)
1/2 cup canola oil
4 ounces sliced double-smoked bacon, cut in half lengthwise and julienned
5 shallots, finely diced
8 to 10 portobello-mushroom caps, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
3 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 to 4 and 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin, trimmed (with the thin tail end folded to equalize the thickness) and tied at 1 and 1/2-inch intervals
Place eight cups of the broth in a saucepan over medium heat and reduce to about two cups. Reduce the red wine to about one cup in a separate saucepan.
Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large pan, then add the bacon and cook until it’s crisp but not burned; remove and set aside. Add the shallots to the pan, cook till translucent, and stir in the diced mushrooms. When the mushrooms have released all their liquid, return the bacon to the pan, add the reduced wine, and bring to a simmer. Add the reduced beef broth and thyme and simmer for 30 minutes. Mix the cornstarch or arrowroot with the remaining 1/4 cup beef broth and add to the sauce after the first 15 minutes of cooking. When ready to serve, whisk in the butter and season with salt and pepper. If the sauce becomes too thick, thin it out with a little water.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining oil in a large ovenproof saut pan, and when the oil begins to smoke, add the tenderloin and sear on all sides. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, to desired doneness (115 to 118 degrees for rare, 120 degrees for medium rare). Remove from oven, cover loosely with foil, and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Cut into 2-inch-thick slices and serve two per person with the portobello-bacon sauce. Hearts of celery, organic carrots, leeks, and Bintje potatoes–all braised–make great accompaniments.
What to talk about over dinner: How do you save money? What is the stupidest thing you’ve ever splurged on? The best thing? Are you a shopaholic? If so, on what? Clothes, games, DVDs, electronics? What messages does “Shopaholic” send viewers, especially young ones? How do you talk to your kids about money? How did your parents talk to you about it? What would you splurge on if you could? How can our society heal from this recession? What are things you do to tighten your belt?