Review: The Devil Wears Prada
Building up to the release of The Devil Wears Prada, the movie adaptation of Lauren Weisberger's whiny roman à clef about life in the couture trenches, there was a lot of breathy popular journalism stories about evil bosses. Articles about "Do You Have One?" and "What To Do To Cope" etc. However, despite the universality of working for someone you loathe and fear, this movie neglects to actually depict a terror in Meryl Streep's Miranda Priestly, editor of the fictional Runway magazine. Rather the delightful Streep as Priestly comes across as demanding, at times a touch capricious, even complimentary and someone the fluffy Anne Hathaway as the assistant Andy admires. Hardly the tell-all unloading on a tyrant that you'd expect. Streep even manages to steal a final scene from Hathaway with a mere toss of her eyebrows. It's no wonder Streep is one of our most celebrated actresses, she's got the goods, designer or no.
Manhattan is a town run on the backs of young, talented, economically-challenged, brow-beaten assistants, so it's not surprising that one of them would broker a book deal with some choice insider dirt. The big problem with Weisberger's was that despite the meanness of her boss, her narrator came off as the most entitled of snobs. She went to Brown; she should be working at the New Yorker not fetching scarves or walking the dog. Over and over, it was drilled into the minds of the reader that Andy was much too Ivy League educated for this garbage. However, dues paying is what rarified industries like publishing are about and hardly seemed worth that much elaborate bitching.
Interestingly, that bitter tone has been down-played in the film resulting in a more likable Miranda and a more hard-working Andy. While there is the requisite montage of Andy running around town picking up Miranda's car and procuring her red meat lunch served on fine china, the lasting impression from the film is Hathaway's make-over story. Even though the film jokes about how Hathaway's healthy frame is considered "fat" in the fashion world (coining the bitingly clever phrase, "size 6 is the new 14"), the camera relishes in how well Andy cleans up. Fashionista costumer Patricia Field puts Hathaway in some adorable looks and her shiny hair with the lush brown eyes is particularly fetching. Of course this supposed pilfering of the fashion closet for Miranda-approved looks is highly unrealistic but that and the footage at the real Paris couture shows are some of the most satisfying in the movie.
One theory banded about since the film's release has been that the more positive spin on the Miranda character and the slightly unknown quality to the fashions (they're surprisingly free of easily identifiable "name" looks) are because of the specter of Anna Wintour, Weisberger's former boss. People in the biz don't really want to piss off the doyen in the bob because she will crush their puny little lives. Devil Wears Prada tries to allude to this fascinating power structure in this multi-million dollar business but ultimately falls short. Certain people in the business world are really that formidable. To get a taste of what makes them tick, you'd be actually quite lucky to pick up their dry cleaning. It might not be fun per se, but in the case of Andy, you'd look hot doing it.