The Devil Wears Prada Review
Andrea 'Andy' Sachs (Anne Hathaway) dreams of being a journalist, so much so that the slightest glimpse of a job at a magazine draws her in. But it so happens that the job in question is as a personal assistant to Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), the editor-in-chief at Runway magazine, which is the glittering top spire at the top of the already-sparkling Elias-Clark empire. Priestly's power within the fashion world is absolute and no less so within the glass walls of Runway. Andy steels herself for the arrival of Miranda Priestly, surprised at the bustle in the office in the minutes before Priestly arrives but shocked when Priestly says little to Andy before tossing her a coat and bag. Andy nods and gets on with putting Priestly's coat away, reminding herself that one year on Runway will lead to the pick of jobs in the publishing industry. But it's going to be a long year.
At first, Andy can do no right, proving, as Priestly describes her, to be even more of a disappointment than all the earlier, and less bright, girls. Described as fat by Runway's art director Nigel (Stanley Tucci), sneered at by her more senior partner in personal assistance Emily Charlton (Emily Blunt) and dismissed as useless by Miranda Priestly, Andy is on the verge of quitting when a little pep talk from Nigel and a phone call from Priestly lets in a little hope. When Andy turns up a couple of copies of the latest Harry Potter book for Priestly's twin daughters - not the published one but the manuscript of what JK Rowling is still working on - she almost gets a smile of appreciation from Miranda. Very slowly, Andy begins to turn things around...
Of course, Andy begins to turn things around. Hathaway is, after all, the star of two Princess Diaries films, which themselves owe a considerable debt to the fairy tale of Cinderella, which saw an ugly Los Angelean duckling blossoming into becoming a beautiful princess of Glasnavia, Belatuxco or some such place. Gone were the dreadful school uniform, cut was the frizz of curls previously seen on several First Division footballers of the seventies and the glasses, like a pair of vases wrapped in black plastic, were put back in their case in favour of contact lenses. The gangly, awkward girl in the opening minutes of The Princess Diaries soon found her own style and oozed confidence as she hosted a ball in the embassy of the film's fictional state, dancing under Julie Andrews' approving gaze.
The Devil Wears Prada is virtually a rewrite of The Princess Diaries. Not unattractive, Hathaway begins this film looking uncomfortable in a dowdy set of clothes rather than ugly but is called fat first by Miranda Priestly and then by Nigel, all on account of her being a size six and not a zero. Or, as Nigel puts in, "Two became the new four and zero became the new two...six is the new fourteen!" Soon, though, she begins getting things right, not only over the matter of finding the manuscript of the new Harry Potter novel but also saving Miranda Priestly from embarrassment at a social function, comforting Priestly when news of her divorce comes through and showing genuine feelings of concern when she uncovers treachery within the walls of the Elias-Clark building. To those mourning the absence of a third installment of The Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada will be a godsend but, for everyone else, there isn't quite as much bitchiness as was suggested in early reviews of the film. What there is seems to have taken Toby Young's How To Lose Friends And Alienate People as well as Lauren Weisberger's original novel its source material, which revealed that Anna Wintour, the Vogue editor-in-chief, would only ride a lift alone, that Conde-Nast was better known as Condescending-and-Nasty and a Keanu Reeves / "Young, Dumb And Full Of Cum" T Shirt wasn't the best thing to wear on one's first morning at a new job. But The Devil Wears Prada softens these moments such that it becomes a feelgood film, showing two or three rather tender moments between Miranda and Andy and revealing that her willingness to go it alone eventually reaps a reward.
Of course, it all works out in the end for Andy, much as it did for Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries. Hathaway, though, with Meryl Streep, clearly the star of the film, is a rather dull lead with the pick of the parts going to Emily Blunt and to Stanley Tucci, who plays gay but steers his character away from camp, much more so than do the producers of Ugly Betty. And that's part of the problem of The Devil Wears Prada. It obviously takes some of its cues from the real-life offices of Vogue but draws back from screeching bitchiness to make it more palatable when served as a romantic comedy. Similarly, Nigel is obviously gay but not so much so as to offend anyone with a distaste of homosexuality. He's very much the gay character who is never seen in the arms of another man and who, it is suggested, cries himself to sleep at night with the loneliness of it all. Miranda Priestly isn't even as wicked as she might otherwise have been with her personal assistants being on first name terms with her and wont to offer them a talk or two to guide their careers. More than that, it's not even an accurate satire of the world of fashion nor is there any blind assumptions on what such a magazine might be like, more a feelgood film that appears to have arrived in the offices of Runway almost by accident as though other, equally likely scenarios had already been exhausted by The Princess Diaries, She's All That and My Fair Lady. There can be no doubting that The Devil Wears Prada is amusing and that one warms easily to Anne Hathaway but the spikes in the heels on the cover of this DVD are certainly absent in the film itself. For sharp, prickly laughs at the expense of the fashion industry, one needn't look to The Devil Wears Prada, which isn't so much a six-inch stiletto heel but a warm cashmere sweater. In cerulean and not just any old shade of blue.
Given that it is such a recent film, it is no surprise that The Devil Wears Prada looks good, sourced from a print free of any errors and transferred onto DVD looking sharp, with some noticeable background detail and with a palette of colours as good with the chill in European cities as it is with New York in autumn months. It does look better in some scenes than it does in others, particularly when they're given time to linger on the screen. This is most noticeable later in the film when the frantic visual comedy of Anne Hathaway tottering through the streets in Jimmy Choo shoes and carrying coffee gives way to more intimate scenes between her and Meryl Streep. The final scenes in the film, such as those set in Paris, look the best and the DVD does a very good job with them, much as it does in the panic of Hathaway attempting to book Streep out of a hurricane-hit Miami. The Devil Wears Prada makes a worried Hathaway on the streets of New York look lovely.
The default DD5.1 language track is, again, very good but there are very few moments when it shows itself off, preferring to keep the rear channels for ambient effects and soundtrack music. However, the dialogue, which is the most important aspect of this audio track, does sound excellent, being clear of any background music and effects. Finally, there are English subtitles amongst others, which remain accurate throughout.
Commentary: Director David Frankel, writer Aline Brosh McKenna and others (editor, producer and the like but no stars) come together for a very dry commentary about The Devil Wears Prada that's fine on the technical bits and bobs and on the various outfits but less so on what underpins not only the fashion industry but also the romance and the comedy in the film. Ideally, a commentary for this film would have welcomed Toby Young, Lauren Weisberger and a host of ex-Conde Nast clackers for this film, offering us a bitchy, trashy commentary on the excesses and the ridiculousness of the fashion trade. But that wasn't to be and this can actually be quite dull a lot of the time.
Deleted Scenes (18m22s): Trimmed for reasons of length moreso, I suspect, than quality, the thirteen deleted scenes included here are of a high standard, quite the equal of anything in the final cut and often very funny. Director David Frankel and editor Mark Livolsi contribute a commentary but it's best just to enjoy the sight of Andy shopping for skirts at Calvin Klein and figuring out why it is that Miranda doesn't like anyone riding in the lift with her.
Featurettes: There are six here, which go from the fun to the expected and can be surprisingly enjoyable if dipped into shortly after watching the main feature. First amongst them is The Trip To The Big Screen (12m01s), which is a very typical glimpse at the making of the film complete with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews but things get better with New York And NYC (6m23s), a flashy look at the fashion business in Manhattan. The many beautiful models do help but there's also a sense of humour to it. Fashion Visionary Patricia Field (8m44s) is next and seems to be further proof than anyone involved in the dressing of beautiful women (Field, Karl Lagerfeld, Donatella Versace to name but three) is also monstrously ugly. Getting Valentino (2m51s) explains how the designer was hauled into appearing in The Devil Wears Prada despite some scepticism in the industry. Boss From Hell (2m34s) is a snippy and funny set of tales of dreadful management whilst Real Life Editor-In-Chief (4m14s) follows Spanish Elle editor Danda Smith through a cut down version of her day.
Finally, there is a Gag Reel (5m06s), which is much, much less funny than the actual film and a Theatrical Trailer (2m55s).
In his cinema review of this film, Kevin O'Reilly wrote that Anne Hathaway might well be this generation's Julia Roberts and he's not wrong. She's very likeable, can be funny, isn't too attractive and appeals strongly to women. Fittingly, The Devil Wears Prada is to fashion what Pretty Woman is to prostitution, softening its subject matter, unwilling to delve too deeply into its murkier moments and unafraid to drape a feelgood love story over itself. This will be much welcomed by those who sink into a comfy sofa, sip wine and nibble on chocolate to a Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride or a Notting Hill but for a sassy snipping of the fashion business, The Devil Wears Prada isn't so much de la Renta as Debenhams.