The Devil Wears Prada (2006) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language and sensuality
Running Time: 109 min.
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, Adrian Grenier, Tracie Thoms, Rich Sommer, Daniel Sunjata, Gisele Bundchen, Heidi Klum
Director: David Frankel
Screenplay: Aline Brosh McKenna (based on the novel by Lauren Weisberger)
Like watching a show about fashion on television or flipping through the pages of a fashion magazine, there is a sense (for some people) of fun, frivolity, and envy at watching the glitz, glamour, and style of people that claim to be experts on what to wear. It's a point that The Devil Wears Prada makes time and again, knowing the audience will be the very same people that enjoy such fare. As such, it plays out with all of the sense of style and well-packaged zip you'd expect from a film about fashion, a suit of mass-marketed entertainment that it seems to wear quite well.
In the film, recently-graduated college girl Andrea "Andy" Sachs (Hathaway, Brokeback Mountain) heads to New York City with the hope of landing a job at an esteemed major publication. One of the magazines she applies to is the leader in the fashion world, "Runway", where she is afforded an interview as the assistant to the highly-publicized editor-in-chief, Miranda Priestly (Streep, A Prairie Home Companion). Although ill-suited for the role, literally and figuratively, Andy thinks it will give her the experience she needs in journalism to give her a step up in her career, as she puts up (barely) with the almost intolerable demands of Priestly, constantly at her beck and call. Andrea struggles at first, but then decides to plunge in head first, becoming every bit the role of Miranda's assistant, slimming down, wearing more fashionable attire, and dedicating nearly every waking moment to making her stay there a success. However, her success in her career comes at the expense of her personal life, and her neglect of her family and friends makes them think that their Andy has changed into the type of person she used to have disdain for.
I have to admit, I honestly care very little about the world of popular fashion, finding television shows covering such things to be unwatchable and magazines about it to be only interesting for what you don't see on the models rather than what you do. I will never take the time to read Lauren Weisberger's book upon which this film is based, but for under two hours of my time, I did find the movie it's based on to be amiable, breezy entertainment.
The story follows an oft-used formula of a person with small-town values that gets put into the smug, superficial world of big business, where she finds herself disowning all that she ever was to be just another cog in the machine that drives the business. By the end of the film, the protagonist will find herself at a crossroads, where she must choose to reclaim everything she used to be, or give it all up to be she person she swore she'd never be, in the more lucrative and estimable world of the business. Working Girl is perhaps the one that comes immediately to mind as exhibiting this formula, of which The Devil Wear Prada borrows many elements, including the simple-valued girl with dreams of something bigger, the demanding female boss, the handsome older man in the business that gives her a few heads up, and the boyfriend at home that can't deal with the way the job has changed her personality to the detriment of their once-solid relationship.
Like any fashion magazine, the main attraction to The Devil Wears Prada isn't the content, but rather, the presentation. In this regard, the film does achieve success, with another memorable performance by Meryl Streep as the detestable Miranda, who actually makes the "dragon lady" seem human underneath the outward intolerability for others. Anne Hathaway is the quintessential "good girl", which makes her easy to root for and feel a certain level of sympathy with. It shows how little fashion sense I have to not be able to discern much of a difference in her attractiveness as she becomes more fashion-savvy -- I guess there is such a thing as natural beauty. The solid supporting cast is also a great asset.
Watching this film may not make much of an impact in your life, and it may not change your sense of fashion, but it just might give you an appreciation of how much time and effort goes into making some of tomorrow's style of clothing today. You need not be a fashionista to enjoy it, as it is interesting as a look into the world of the fashion industry, how it operates, and, more significantly, how it changes people and their claim to individuality. There is an element of "selling one's soul to the Devil" in order to get ahead in the business of fashion, making the title all the more ironic. Many people are willing to give up everything important -- to be "important".
©2006 Vince Leo