The Devil Wears Prada
Director(s): David Frankel
Writer(s): Aline Brosh McKenna
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Jun 30, 2006 - Wide
The Devil Wears Prada is a bit like a reversible jacket in the way that it can be seen in different fashions. In one moment, it’s a satire about the fashion industry and the powerful figures that reside within it and in the next moment it tries to be a cautionary tale about being true to yourself and your values. Like a reversible jacket, I think it’s better worn one way and that’s when it’s poking a stick into the eye of the fashion world.
Based on the novel by Lauren Weisberger that had people guessing which fictional characters were based on which real-life fashion power brokers, the film tells the tale of Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) an aspiring journalist freshly graduated from Northwestern University. Instead of landing a job as a reporter on a paper, she ends up working as the junior personal assistant to Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), the powerful editor of Runway magazine, who comes across as a mix of real-life Vogue editor Anna Wintour and 101 Dalmatians’ Cruella de Vil. Miranda is a boss with impossible expectations that are to be made possible. Andy is constantly reminded that she is below the task by Miranda’s #1 assistant Emily (Emily Blunt).
With the assistance of the magazine’s art director, Nigel (Stanley Tucci), who gives her the big Cinderella makeover, Andy begins to fit in, both in fashion and work ethic. It’s this on call 24 hours a day, lose yourself in the job aspect that begins to affect her relationship with her boyfriend Nate (Adrian Grenier). After dealing with a lot of the expectations of Miranda, the film turns briefly into an exploration of publishing politics, challenged romances, and being true to your life’s goals. It’s at this point that the story loses some of its steam but thankfully the more caustic moments make up the bulk of the film. It’s funny that in a film that’s trying to tell us that you shouldn’t lose yourself in your job, the scenes outside of work are the least satisfying.
Though the story centres around Hathaway’s character, it’s the people around her that seem to be having the most fun. Streep’s Priestly is a nasty queen bee and Streep plays the character in a fashion that still makes an unbelievably over-the-top demanding boss a living, breathing, believable person. Blunt should probably be charged with theft for stealing every scene she’s in as she delivers scathing one-liners like “I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight” and Tucci plays Nigel with the right balance of a man who’s comfortable as a confidant and sidekick but still longing for the job recognition he’s been waiting for. Grenier’s casting as Hathaway’s boyfriend seems almost as a nod from the film’s director David Frankel, who’s helmed episodes of Grenier’s series Entourage, as the chemistry between him and Hathaway is virtually non-existent. Simon Baker has a bit more heat with Hathaway as a magazine writer who hints that he could “help her with her journalistic goals” and we all know what that means. A few models like Heidi Klum and Bridget Hall make appearances, but apparently more fashion icons avoided cameos for fear of angering Wintour.
Like ignoring a bad tie, if one looks past the relationship plot points and just concentrates on the life one leads under Miranda, The Devil Wears Prada is an entertaining piece. I think everybody who has been in a work situation with a domineering boss knows what it’s like, though perhaps not to the same extent as Streep’s character. If it described one aspect of my girlfriend’s work past, the movie would be called The Devil Has Cankles.