Movie Review: The Devil Wears Prada

Movies and Television

If you think you’ll see cute little scenes wherein Anne Hathaway (as Andy) demands to the Starbucks baristas that they make the coffee center-of-the-sun hot, give up because that line did not even make the movie. The marketing department hacks for The Devil Wears Prada have trailers out there that make the film seem like a fish-out-of-water comedy. It’s not really.

What’s here is more Bright Lights, Big City. Then it has the gall to move onto Faustian themes and it’s there I rolled my eyes so hard, I strained something.

And while we’re at it, what DID prop masters do before Starbucks and the ubiquitous to go coffee that everyone seems to carry around in every movie and TV show? The MACs were well placed, and believably too.

It’s an OK chick flick. And yes Meryl Streep is almost sure to get another Oscar nod for her supporting role as fashion Nazi Miranda Priestly. She really goes with it making sure not to push the character too far into more of a caricature. Stanley Tucci is good but underused as magazine editor-as-Henry Higgins. Everyone else is just kind of there, except Emily Blunt who does a good job as another assistant for Miranda and Andy’s quasi-nemesis, Emily.

The story: Andy is new in NYC, a recent college grad struggling to find her first journalism gig. And to the surprise of her family and friends, she didn’t jump straight from editor of the college paper (natch) to city editor of the Times, land a position as a features writer for the New Yorker, or get a column in a NY tabloid in which she overshares about her sex life, whines about men and gets paid enough to afford a nice apartment and all the couture she desires. After going to a job interview in which she sasses her would-be boss, all the while modeling her lack of conditioner and a hairbrush (remember, she’s smart), Andy takes a job as assistant to Runway editor Miranda, which she is told by everyone is a dream job that will be the stepping stone to the job of her choice.

At first she goes with it, but does not give into the office mojo, that is to say, does not alter her appearance, and doesn’t bother to suppress her feelings about fashion-as-non-important. She just goes about her business as a glorified gopher, until Streep dresses her down for failing to accomplish the utterly ridiculous. (And because it’s something anyone woulda/coulda/shoulda seen coming, I know I would not have lost any sleep over it.) Andy does not get fired by Miranda, but she does get fired UP enough to seek advice “advice-meaning-makeover” from Tucci. From then she’s the dream assistant, thanks to the wonder of fabulous fashion. It’s gotta be the shoes! and soon manages to impress the boss, even accomplishing the totally preposterous. But the job has its drawbacks, like taking up all of her time, thusly negating her personal life, which brings us to her “friends.”

The people. She has a grungy, wannabe chef boyfriend played by Adrian Grenier (Vincent, Entourage), an ambiguously gay (because he knows fashion) but boring (because it has to do with numbers) business job guy friend, and my favorite cliche “the random ethnic friend” a sassy black girl. And mostly, they suck.

After re-gifting some very high priced loot that Miranda didn’t want to these alleged friends, Andy gets grief about her job and life changes. Like way to be supportive, assholes.

In another scene at a gallery event done by her girlfriend, Andy gets hit on by some guy (Simon Baker) from the fashion/news world. Andy manages to divert it well enough, but not too strongly, lest she endanger a potentially productive business or personal future relationship. Does her friend come over and warn her about his obvious intentions in a friendly way? No. Girlfriend jumps all in Andy’s kitchen about how Andy has a boyfriend (with whom she lives, at 22, right out of college) and accusing her of stepping out on him. Like gallery girl never has a guy in the “hug hug, kiss kiss” art scene leave an arm around her a second too long. Way to show the trust. Also getting tired of the new job is boyfriend Adrian, though to be fair, the job does take over Andy’s life. But again that first out of college job is so hard to get and it’s not like he would not kill to be Wolfgang Puck’s bitch for a year if it meant a shot at a good chef job.

Andy’s character seems strong and smart at first, sassing the boss and able to put up with the shit. (I cannot do it, which is why I am self-employed, but I applaud those who can play those corporate games to a point.) But when Miranda and others carp on Andy’s size and weight, I just think, “Wow. Keep talking and she will have a great discrimination suit judgment coming her way.” Skinny is a job req for the models, not the errand runner girl. But give in she does, going for the free clothes and shoes (Ah, shoes. Who wouldn’t?) and slimming down a bit. If you don’t want to be any more spoiled, stop reading here. Otherwise, carry on.

Streep and Hathaway. © 2006 Devil Wears Prada

Then the movie, via characters like her boyfriend, decides to judge Andy, making the analogy that she has sold her soul for a pair of Jimmy Choos. See once she starts to do a good job, she actually outperforms the other assistant Emily. In reward and recognition of Andy’s efforts, Miranda selects Andy to go with her to Paris for an event. Great right?

Wrong, since Emily was there first and is supposed to go. Despite the fact that she’s been a) a bitch to Andy and b) proven a less capable gopher, Emily should still get to go to Paris (?) and Andy makes this “choice” to screw her over. Then they weaken it (you’ll see how) to make it less “bad” but I don’t care.

The other part of that is SO WHAT IF SHE DID? She’s a 22-year-old kid dammit. At that age young men and women are supposed to make their way in the world, learn new things, take some lumps and experience life that makes them grow into adults. Because Andy experiences new things and has the nerve to actually start to like them, she’s vilified as weak and untrue to herself. (Bet if it was something more important that fashion “say medicine, helping the poor or a spot on Survivor” then they’d all show the love.) Because she grows apart from her childhood friend and boyfriend, she’s turning her back on her ideals? Since she accepts the fruits of her labors, Andy is now on her way to becoming a hellish person like Miranda?

WTF!! So if you’re not exactly who you were at 22, if you alter your life’s path and move on to other directions, you’re a sell out. That’s apparently the message here. Spare me. Sorry this is taking so long, but crap like this pisses me off.

As I wrote earlier, Streep is great as Miranda, but her quips are more pointed zingers than comedic barbs, as if mean equals funny. The film takes the teeth from Miranda in a number of ways, personal life issues, her not-in-character actions at the end. But it also correctly justifies some of her behavior with the tried and totally true, the “if she were a man” defense. Near the end when Miranda shows Andy how it’s done in the big bad world, Andy climbs back onto her moral high horse, only to have Miranda take her right back down by pointing out what Andy “did” to Emily. Which is a semi-correct spin on what happened, more of a “not true, but accurate” appraisal of the scenario but I don’t care about it this point.

rant/> So when Miss “We were on a break” Andy goes back to “Needs a haircut and eyebrow was” boyfriend, and apologizes to changing ways, and how it was wrong and bad and not of the Lord, it’s a joke and utter cop-out. /rant>

Will Andy keep her job or walk away? Will she revert to type and stop brushing her hair? Go back to Sears for ugly clothes that would flatter no one? Will she atone for her sins, set right what went wrong with non-friend Emily? If she quits her job, will the plucky “heroine” land on her feet? Or will “villain” Miranda squash her like a bug? Any bets. Yeah that’s what you thought.

Final Snark: Oscar nod for Streep, not-all-that-impressive fashion, and bullshit attitudes that get me fightin’ mad.

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