The Devil Wears Prada Review
Upon graduating university, journalism student Andrea Sachs (Anne Hathaway) moves to New York with her boyfriend (Adrian Grenier), hoping to find work as a writer. After having a lot of doors slammed in her face, Andy is finally offered an interview for a job as second assistant to Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), the prestigious editor of trend-setting fashion magazine Runway. To many young women, this job would be a dream come true but Andy has no interest in fashion - to say she dresses down would be putting it kindly - and she goes to the interview only because she's assured she'll meet useful contacts in the publishing industry.
Despite her cluelessness and lack of interest, Andy's can-do attitude impresses Miranda and she's given the job. It isn't long before she's regretting that. The job entails being on-call 24/7, reporting to bitchy first assistant Emily (Emily Blunt), who hates her, being treated as a pariah by her fashionista workmates and being delegated one impossible task after another by a boss who gives her no acknowledgement when she succeeds and spits acid at her when she fails. Andy's not one to give up though. She becomes determined to prove to Miranda she can do the job, no matter what it takes.
Clever, funny and immensely enjoyable, The Devil Wears Prada is the sort of sophisticated Hollywood comedy the studios no longer make very often. It has a great premise, a very witty script (by Aline Brosh McKenna) that even manages to spring a few surprises and a cast to die for. Director David Frankel worked on Sex And The City and so he knows all about New York, expensive shoes and tart one-liners. He handles the material perfectly, keeping the film bubbling along and the fun infectious.
This film is as pleasurable to watch as anything I've seen in a long time. It's a delight watching Andy navigate the treacherous world of high fashion and rack her brains trying to satisfy Miranda's outrageous demands, which include getting her children the new Harry Potter book by 3pm. No, not the one in the shops, the unpublished manuscript of JK Rowling's next installment!
As good as the writing and directing are, the cast undoubtedly makes the film. It's Meryl Streep everyone's talking about and she's every bit as good as you've heard. She always is when she plays comedy - I remember being bowled over by her in the under-rated Death Becomes Her 14 years ago and she's only got better. The role of Miranda the power-dressing editor fits her like a glove but she doesn't just do a star turn. While Streep has a lot of fun with the role, she takes her seriously and plays her as a real human being. You're watching the character, not the star.
There's fine support from Stanley Tucci as a bitchy fashion expert with a heart of gold and from British actress Emily Blunt as Andy's snooty rival. Blunt was the posh girl in My Summer Of Love and it's good to see that movie won her the attention she deserves.
Anne Hathaway has the most thankless part. She's the wide-eyed outsider, representing those of us in the audience who've never picked up Vogue in our lives and only recognise the names of fashion designers from hearing Sarah Jessica Parker mention them on Sex And The City. One of the pleasures of this film is getting a (very rudimentary) crash course in fashion and magazine publishing along with Andy.
Hathaway is an extremely likeable actress, potentially her generation's Julia Roberts. She can act when she's asked to (Brokeback Mountain) or she can simply be a movie star (The Princess Diaries). Here she's a movie star. What's required of her is to be sympathetic - to get us on her side and keep us there even when she's gone native among the rich stick insects and she's flirting with a writer (Simon Baker) behind her boyfriend's back. Actually, her boyfriend is so dull and full of himself, that's not a problem.
In a sense, Hathaway is playing the same character she played in The Princess Diaries and Ella Enchanted: the common girl who's upgraded to royalty, only, unlike those films, The Devil Wears Prada doesn't see the upgrade as a good thing.
Don't worry, the predictable moral (fashion and wealth = corruption) isn't pushed hard enough down our throats to spoil the fun. Sure, we get the obligatory scenes in which Andy's boyfriend and best pal act dismayed at how she's changed but the script is smart enough to at least allow fashion and wealth to make their case. When Andy's disdain threatens to turn smug, Miranda cuts her down to size with a brilliant monologue explaining how Andy's own, self-consciously unfashionable clothes are the by-products of the industry she thinks she's above.
The title notwithstanding, Miranda isn't the devil, although she does wear Prada. Apparently she was a lot nastier in the source novel by Lauren Weisberger, who (surprise, surprise) once worked as an assistant to real-life Vogue editor Anna Wintour, but the movie humanises Miranda. Yes, she's still portrayed a ruthless bitch, but not one without complexity and humanity. Streep captures all sides of the woman magnificently.