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Art imitates life in new movies

Movie audience

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Art hasn't exactly been imitating life when it comes to the economy. And that's probably a good thing. But a couple of movies that are opening this weekend might reverse that trend. For those with financial revenge fantasies, there is "The International," the story of a truly bad bank brought down by a dashing Interpol agent. And for the conspicuous consumer in withdrawal out there, there's "Confessions of a Shopaholic," about a woman who goes crazy with her credit cards. It is the world we live in, but is it entertainment?

Marketplace's Stacey Vanek-Smith checked it out.


STACEY VANEK-SMITH: American buying power is behind 20 percent of the world economy. We're a nation of shopaholics.

REBECCA BLOOMWOOD IN "CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC": Dress -- Zac Posen, belt -- Todd Oldham vintage, bag -- Gucci!

At least we were. Then came the credit crunch.

STORE CLERK IN "CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC": Declined.

REBECCA BLOOMWOOD IN "CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC": Can you try again?

STORE CLERK IN "CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC": Really declined.

That's Rebecca Bloomwood, star of "Confessions of a Shopaholic." It's a movie, but it comes uncomfortably close to real life. So will women want to head to a theater to relive the glory days of careless credit card spending? Marketing expert Mary Lou Quinlan doesn't think so.

MARY LOU QUINLAN: I just wonder if women feel like you're rubbing their nose in what they can't have anymore. It's like window shopping with no money in your pocket.

Then there's "The International," where a couple of rogue do-gooders take down a corrupt and murderous bank. Brad Adgate with Horizon Media predicts that timely revenge fantasy could be a draw.

BRAD ADGATE: Sure I think you might see a loud cheer in the theater when something happens to the bank. It's kind of in the zeitgeist of today.

Still, Daily Variety's Stewart Levine says traditionally, people aren't too keen on movies dealing with current problems.

STEWART LEVINE: I just don't think people want to pay $10 to see the bad stuff they could read for free on the internet at home and watch on TV at home.

But don't write the obit for conspicuous consumption or financial idolatry just yet. Marketing expert Mary Lou Quinlan predicts as soon as the economy turns around, we'll fall back in love with our old ways.

QUINLAN: That's what America does. America buys and builds and makes and wants and it's really hard to imagine that those lessons will stick if things get flush again.

In other words, "Confessions of a Shopaholic" and "The International" could have a long life on DVD.

I'm Stacey Vanek-Smith for Marketplace.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.

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