Any armchair economist can sit down today and point out last year's indications of a New Depression. The one he'd likely miss occurred when Isla Fisher nabbed the lead in Confessions of a Shopaholic.
It hardly seemed fair to the 32-year-old Aussie, whose massive break in Wedding Crashers followed more than a decade of dues-paying in scattershot soaps, independent films and studio trifles like Scooby-Doo. But there it was: The movie adaptation of Sophie Kinsella's novel about a recent college graduate whose financial reporting gig opens her to a fulsome New York lifestyle — even as it underscores her laughable inability to reckon with the bills once they come due. It was a fun, frivolous, romantic, ostensibly moral portrait the swinging early '00s that producer Jerry Bruckheimer naturally had to have, and which he spent the better part of eight years developing as his chick-flick passion project.
Fisher always sought something a little more intellectually stimulating than just that, though, even if her name did go above the title. She told journalists during last year's press rounds for her romcom Definitely, Maybe about her interest in writing her own comedies; she'd penned two Australian bestsellers by her early 20s, after all, and had hooked a fiance, Sacha Baron Cohen, who was as fulfilling a creative partner as he was a soulmate and father to their young daughter Olive. The Wedding Crashers promise had yet to abate, though what immediately followed seemed incongruous at best with her long-term goals — particularly the hollow indie double-shot of London and The Lookout, the latter of which left viewers wondering how Vince Vaughn's nymphomaniac Crashers paramour wound up portraying arguably the most inessential femme fatale of her generation.
So she tried Hot Rod, another curious choice buying into the gamble that Andy Samberg could open a summer comedy for Paramount. He — and she — couldn't; it finished ninth at the box office its first frame and ended its run with a decidedly underwhelming $14 million. The underrated Definitely, Maybe was next, a far more appealing fit featuring Fisher as the idealist romantic foil to Ryan Reynolds's moody single father. Universal halfheartedly unleashed it on Valentine's Day 2008, where it opened fifth, trailing even the McConaughey/Hudson effort Fool's Gold. At least her voice had a hit less than a month later, supporting Steve Carell and Jim Carrey in Horton Hears a Who!, but Fisher's post-Crashers run has been a bust by even the kindest estimations.
Yet a cocktail of bad roles/luck/marketing is one thing. What can you even say about the unbelievably bad timing of Shopaholic, which Disney has worked to push as a sort of fiscal coming-of-age story while Bruckheimer dizzily spins to the LAT: "The timing for this movie couldn't be better. This is the journey of a young girl who has a problem and she turns her life around. It's a tale the whole world can learn a lesson from." They're entitled, we suppose, and there is the possibility of an escapist-fare hit. For Fisher's sake, at least, we'd like that. But its conceptual dubiousness still accompanies her face on the poster, still weighs down her arms perhaps even more than the overstuffed bags from gilded Fifth Avenue redoubts past which unemployed New Yorkers today pound the pavement with contempt.
And it's Isla Fisher's name, however unfairly, Hollywood hears today and increasingly thinks, "Wow, tough break." It's worse for millions of others, of course. Like them, she deserves better. And also like them, it may be years, if ever, before she gets it.