Friday, June 30, 2006
The Devil Wears Prada
Reviewed by: Edward Douglas
Rating: 8 out of 10
Fresh from college, Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) comes to New York in hopes of being a journalist. Instead, she accepts a job as a personal assistant to the demanding Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), editor in chief of the fashion magazine Runway, who forces Andy to compromise her ideals if she ever wants to make it in publishing.
Lauren Weisberger's bestseller "The Devil Wears Prada" may not have been the most critically acclaimed novel ever, but there definitely was something to its expose on the workings of the fashion industry and the tough standards set by Vogue editor Anna Wintour. (Weisberger, who worked as one of them, denies that the edit in "Prada" was based on Wintour.) Of course, it's not hard to empathize with the story of a post-graduate trying to attain her dreams but getting sidetracked into an imperfect job with a boss from hell that may help get her there faster.
Not the type of movie to waste time setting-up its premise, it jumps right into Anne Hathaway's Andy arriving at Runway Magazine where she's hoping to get a job, despite not knowing or caring much about fashion. First, she has to get through Mirada's snarky assistant Emily (Emily Blunt), more than willing to pass her more menial tasks onto Miranda's latest slave, but nothing can prepare Andy for facing Miranda Priestly, who has developed a reputation for driving her co-workers to drink. Andy also meets Stanley Tucci's Nigel, Miranda's right hand man and the only person she truly trusts. Though he also looks down his nose at Andy at first, there is a heart beating somewhere in Miranda's trusted advisor, and Nigel offers to help turn Andy into the type of fashion swan Miranda prefers around her.
Even if you haven't read the book, it's not hard to figure out where this story is going to go, as Andy has to decide between spending time with her boyfriend or being at Miranda's beck and call. Still, it ends up being a clever indictment about the pretensions of the fashion industry, and it always seems fairly truthful about an industry that has a never-ending desire for smaller and skinnier. (Andy's svelte Size 6 is declared to be "the new Size 14.") This means that a lot of the characters aren't immediately likeable, but the movie's dark and cynical nature is countered by hilarious one-liners, one has to assume screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna took directly from Weisberger's book.
Obviously, Meryl Streep's presence ups the ante for any film, and Miranda Priestly is a great addition to her arsenal, delivering each comment and order in a deadpan way that makes it clear that there's no room for discussion or questions. As easy as it is for Streep to dominate the movie, there are enough strong actors to keep things interesting even when she's not on screen. The most important is Anne Hathaway, giving a performance that has a Marlo "That Girl" Thomas element to it, keeping us on her side despite the questionable decisions she makes on her way to success. It's a great role for Hathaway, reminiscent of memorable breakouts like Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman" and Melanie Griffith in "Working Girl."
Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci do everything in their power to keep up with Streep in delivering their own snide one-liners, providing some of the movie's best laughs in the bargain. With a shaved head and outrageous wardrobe, Tucci plays a gay designer without ever overdoing it, though both these mean characters are given a chance to show a more human side. Miranda's chance comes during a quiet moment between Streep and Hathaway late in the film, when we learn her motivations for being so stern and hard on all of those who work for her.
The only real disappointments are Andy's two love interests: Adrian Grenier from "Entourage" plays her often-ignored boyfriend in a way that proves he doesn't have much range as an actor and Simon Baker, the hotshot New York writer who offers Andy help with other things on his mind, just comes across as too smarmy to really make you think she might fall for his pick-up attempts.
Director David Frankel, whose work on "Sex and the City" prepared him for this "estrocentric" piece, has made a really good-looking movie that flows smoothly from humor to more serious moments in such a balanced way that you never notice the change in tone or lose interest. Though it's always obvious where things will go if you've seen other movies of its ilk, "Prada" ends up being quite satisfying in the fact that it offers laughs, but never loses sight of the fact that there's a moral at the end of every fable and repercussions for every action.
The Bottom Line:
Thanks to a sharp script and four perfectly cast actors, "The Devil Wears Prada" is fun and entertaining even if you're not a fan or slave to fashion. Women should appreciate the characters and all the fashion stuff, bt it's not the type of movie that will leave guys in pain if they're dragged to see it by their wives or girlfriends.