Jul 13,2006 00:00
Movie Review of "The Devil Wears Prada"
"All right, everybody, gird your loins!" The employees of Runway Magazine (an ersatz Vogue) react in a well-orchestrated, mindful panic: Secretaries slip out of their flats and back into heels while checking their lipstick; documents fly, ultimately landing in perfection position on the boss's desk; beneath buried assistants, apparel seems to fly on its own. And the cause of all this hysteria? Meryl Streep's fashionista Editor-in-Chief Miranda Priestly is simply on her way into the office. The camera cuts to painfully chic red and black suede heels first swinging out of a limo, then standing on asphalt -- and the fun's afoot.
The dialogue is marvelous. With sly asides to the Madison Avenue conceit that only skeletally-thin women are acceptable ("I'm just one stomach flu away from my goal weight" "Size 6 is the new 14"), the eye candy of a Manhattan that's dressed to kill matches director David Frankel's previous sensibilities as director of "Sex and the City." Added to the mix is a delicious soundtrack, achieving the delicate balance of underscoring scenes without overwhelming them.
Unlike the book, this is far more Streep's vehicle than Lauren Weisberger's original roman à clef. Instead of the novel's whiny tirade about an impossible boss and a naïve female victim, the film delights, creating much more dimensional characters and an adjusted story that works better than the original. But both the film and book retain an annoying plot point: Although Andy accepts the bargain, her friends and family act in shocked horror at her dedication to the job. The universal prototype of a hellish boss is not foreign. This is part of the movie's charm -- we can all relate at some level to such indignities as no bathroom breaks, fifteen minute lunches, constant criticism and tyrants who expect us to be mindreaders. The very fact that Andy only has to toil under her boss for a year, versus the rest of the world who doesn't get that option, isn't all that terrible. Yet her boyfriend, friends and family turn away in revulsion, as if she's taken to slaughtering puppies. To Hathaway's credit, she's able to maintain the character's sweetness as she politely steps over vipers in the office snake pit. Though the "ugly duckling" (yeah, like Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman") turns into an Audrey Hepburn-like, designer swan on the outside, Andy hasn't changed on the inside -- she's only grown into a smarter and stronger version of herself.
Framed by a magnificent Stanley Tucci exuding external flamboyance while hiding a deeply human heart, and the comically-frazzled Emily Blunt, Streep's Priestly is dead on. Crooning instead of screaming, slightly pursing her lips to convey extreme displeasure, the manicured hand that rocks this fashion world's cradle is understated yet all-powerful. Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna has written to both Streep's comedic and dramatic artistry, allowing us glimpses into the cracking façade of a woman who is constantly disappointed by people who can't ever match her exacting expectations. But unlike the hapless Ms. Priestly, this film delivered all its expectations and much, much more.
Grading this movie on the slightest curve of a fashion model's hips: B-plus