The Devil Wears Prada
2006Director: David Frankel
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci
ew films could be better suited to the unenviable task of opening against the latest big-budget comic-book flick than The Devil Wears Prada. Director David Frankel and screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna know their audience perfectly; and throughout the movie, the two never miss an opportunity to engage in some good ol’ fashion pandering. What emerges is a breezy mixture of 1980s teen sports movie, 1980s coming of age movie, and fashion porn.
Our story revolves around a young woman named Andrea Sachs (Anne Hathaway, of The Princess Diaries and Brokeback Mountain). Fresh from college and unflinchingly earnest, Ms. Sachs is introduced while readying herself for her first big interview in the world of New York journalism. After carpet-bombing the publishing industry with her résumé, Andrea has won herself an audition to become the assistant/gofer for the renowned editor of Runway magazine, Miranda Priestly (Ms. Oscar herself, Meryl Streep). Ms. Priestly, as the audience and Andrea discover simultaneously, is a dismissive, impossible-to-please shrew of a boss who splits time between berating underlings in an alarmingly soft tone and trashing the work of others after little more than a passing glance.
Needless to say, Andrea wins the job that, “a million girls would die for,” and braces herself for months of thankless abuse. From here, the plot’s backbone follows Swimming with Sharks virtually to the letter. Girl screws up, boss cuts girl to pieces. Girl screws up less, boss mildly impressed. Girl gets ahead in the business world, winds up neglecting personal relationships, and so on.
Frankel does an excellent job adapting some of the tricks repeatedly employed in sports movies to a story written for a diametrically opposed audience. As Andrea, Anne Hathaway plays Matthew Modine’s role from Vision Quest; with journalistic glory being the ultimate goal—rather than a wrestling victory. Montages demonstrate her gradual improvement at work, and are constantly garnished with rapid-fire shots of outfits designed to provoke an, “ooohhhh, I want that!” response.
Before long, Andrea masters her duties and becomes indispensable to Miranda. But at what cost? She has stabbed a co-worker in the back, neglected her family, and ruined a relationship (with that dreamboat Vinny Chase, no less). Thus begins, in earnest, Andrea’s struggle between ambition and integrity. Her resolution of clashing desires receives approximately five minutes of screen time, which would not be a problem if it weren’t the story’s main conflict. Regardless, narrative structure ranks low on the list of important ingredients to please this movie’s target-demo. A sympathetic lead, glamorous environments, hunky men, and scrumptious fashion are included in healthy doses, so who the hell needs a complex emotional trial? The Devil Wears Prada can be attacked as vapid, but it at least succeeds in its vapidity.
Rarely does a film’s advertising and premise so successfully predict who will find it entertaining. If you’re interested in the world of fashion or just enjoy Anne Hathaway being called “the fat girl,” you’ll find this movie fun. If, on the other hand, you would rather gouge out your eyes than watch the Style Channel, go for something else. It’s that simple.
The Devil Wears Prada is playing in theaters across the country.
By: Kevin Worrall
Published on: 2006-07-10