The Devil Wears Prada
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
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 everytime 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.
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Posted: July 3, 2006.