THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (2006)
Starring Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, Emily Blunt, Adrian Grenier, Tracie Thoms, Rich Sommer, Simon Baker, Daniel Sunjata, Jimena Hoyos, Rebecca Mader, Tibor Feldman, Stephanie Szostak, David Marshall Grant, James Naughton, Gisele Bunchen, Heidi Klum and Valentino Garavini.
Screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna.
Directed by David Frankel.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox. 109 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Lauren Weisberger’s novel The Devil Wears Prada was the Primary Colors of the fashion and publishing industries; loosely (or is it?) based on her time working at Vogue as the assistant to legendary and feared publisher Anna Wintour.
However, unlike the fly-on-the-wall political drama of Primary Colors, Weisberger’s novel was somewhat poorly written and definitely had a very specific, perhaps slightly selfish, agenda. It didn’t give you a sense of the people behind the power. The iconic character of Miranda Priestly was given no shading, no soul, she was just an overbearing ogre. Which may even have been true in real life (though I tend to doubt it somewhat), however it makes for overly safe, shallow fiction.
The movie version is actually much better than the book. For that, you can thank Meryl Streep. In her capable hands, Miranda isn’t just the crazed harpy that was imagined in the pages; she is an intriguing, thoughtful, harsh-and-yet-strangely likable survivor. She is also by far the most interesting character in a film full of them.
Slightly less interesting, probably because she is our moral compass, is the main character. Andy (Anne Hathaway) is a cute, sweet and slightly innocent midwestern girl who has brought her Big Ten journalism degree to the big city in hopes of becoming the next great writer. She has her sights set on serious journalism, so she almost takes it as a lark when she is offered the opportunity to interview for a position at Runway, a glossy fashion magazine.
Andy sticks out like a sore thumb there, with her last-year’s-fashions and her pretensions to literary glory. However, it is just that serious difference that gets Miranda to give her a chance. The way that Miranda casually calls the adorable Andy “the smart, fat girl” is an eye-opening insight into the modeling world. When a girl this pretty and smart can be looked down at as frumpy, the bar is raised pretty high.
At this point, the film turns into a bit of a cautionary tale, as these films so often do. Will Andy be seduced by the glamour and the glitter and the free designer originals and forget her old friends and journalistic ideas?
Honestly, the film grinds to a halt every time Andy’s boring friends and self-satisfied boyfriend (Adrian Grenier of Entourage) try to convince her that she is too good for such a shallow existence (completely undermining everything that Grenier’s day-job character on Entourage stands for).
Time spent at Runway is so much more interesting. Here we meet characters like Emily (played by British actress Emily Blunt, who also stood out in My Summer of Love a couple of years ago), an anorexic control freak who is also completely insecure about her position as Miranda’s #1 assistant (a role that Andy eventually takes over). There is also Nigel (Stanley Tucci), a nicely non-stereotyped fashionista photographer who becomes Andy’s best friend and confidant on the staff. Nigel may be slightly effeminate, but he does not appear to be gay, an interesting spin on the character. These two supporting roles can honestly be called great, and they would stand out proudly in any other film.
However, just like in the magazine, the pecking order in the movie all leads up to Miranda. Whether she is genuinely confused by why she can’t get a plane during a hurricane, unreasonably expecting the manuscript for the next Harry Potter book to keep her twins happy or letting down her defenses when her latest marriage crumbles, Streep makes her a force of nature. When she is on the screen, you can’t look away. I know this isn’t exactly a newsflash, but watching The Devil Wears Prada just proves yet again this simple truth – Meryl Streep is one hell of an actress. (7/06)
Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 3, 2006.