June 23, 2006
Streep deliciously evil in ‘Devil Wears Prada’
By Kirk Honeycutt
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "The Devil Wears Prada,"
as that spot-on title would indicate, takes place in the world
of haute couture. And that pretty much sums up the movie.
Otherwise, it would be just another Queen of Mean, boss from
conspirators -- co-star Anne Hathaway, director David Frankel
and writer Aline Brosh McKenna -- have with that world and with
a woman who would be considered its god except for the fact
that Miranda Priestly would probably consider that a demotion.
This comic chick flick should enjoy box office success with
female audiences in urban markets in North America and Europe.
The film is based on the best-seller by Lauren Weisberger,
who did a stint as an assistant to Anna Wintour, the
all-powerful editor of Vogue.
That novel and now this movie are her revenge: Here is an
insider's view of the insane, pressure-cooker atmosphere an
outrageously demanding boss can establish in her
architecturally pristine executive suite.
You might want to sit back from the screen, though, so that
Miranda's morning barrage of wraps and overcoats flung at her
assistant doesn't hit you.
Hathaway plays Andy Sachs, a fashion-challenged
Northwestern graduate who takes a job as an assistant to
Miranda, editor of Runway magazine.
Her idea is that a year at Runway on her resume will help
her achieve her goal of working at the New Yorker. But Andy so
doesn't fit the mode.
Nigel (Stanley Tucci in perfect casting), Miranda's fey but
tough right-hand man, takes one look at Andy and wonders, in
one of the movie's better lines, if there is "a
before-and-after piece I don't know about."
Yet it is this awkward fashion sense and naivete that
actually land Andy the job. All of Miranda's previous
assistants, fashion horses in clacking stilettos, have
disappointed her. So why not try the nerd?
Installed as Assistant No. 2 under Assistant No. 1, Andy is
swiftly cut down to size by Miranda. That would be a size 6,
which causes one Clacker to call Andy "fat." (The problem with
this line, which is funny, is that Hathaway is the thinnest
person onscreen -- a size 4 at worst. Then again, maybe that's
why it is funny.)
One day, while whining to Nigel and getting no sympathy,
something clicks in Andy's head. She inveigles Nigel into an
instant makeover in the magazine's wardrobe room: Gliding out
in a Chanel outfit with stiletto Jimmy Choos and a new
hairstyle, Andy has now entered the world of fashion.
Frankel and McKenna do a smart thing in not completely
demonizing Miranda. Fashion is a serious business in America,
and Runway means to remain the bible of that industry. Only a
killer editor who takes no prisoners can maintain those
So Miranda, and for a while Andy, put their jobs first.
Everything else -- husbands, twins and any social life outside
of fashion for Miranda, and a boyfriend (Adrian Grenier),
coterie of friends (Tracie Thoms, Rich Sommer) and a dreamy
novelist (Simon Baker) with romantic ideas for Andy -- come a
distant, distant second.
It eventually becomes clear that there is method to
Miranda's madness: Her incessant demands are tests to purge
staff members who are not up to her own ruthless quest for
Indeed the virtuous moral at the movie's end -- that this
is no way to live a good life -- feels hallow because the film
displays an unmistakable ambivalence toward Runway.
With its grudging admiration for fashion-fabulous costumes
and for this glamorous lifestyle, the film idolizes that which
it would skewer.
Streep makes Miranda a bit sad and lonely without allowing
for even an ounce of sympathy for her character: She has made
her choice in life and clearly loves it.
Hathaway's Andy has gotten momentarily swept up in the
excitement of anticipating and exceeding her boss' demands but
realizes she has lost her career focus.
However, Tucci's Nigel has passed the point of no return:
He can meet Miranda's demands but has lost control of his life.
And Emily Blunt, as Miranda's Assistant No. 1, delivers a comic
gem as a woman so enthralled with fashion and service to its
diva that her life is in free fall. Only she fails to recognize
Designer Jeff Gonchor, costumer Patricia Field and
cinematographer Florian Ballhaus outdo themselves in realizing
a rarefied world not unlike the one which Cole Porter once
satirized in song as "Down in the Depths on the 90th Floor."
Miranda Priestly: Meryl Streep
Andy Sachs: Anne Hathaway
Emily: Emily Blunt
Nigel: Stanley Tucci
Nate: Adrian Grenier
Christian: Simon Baker
Director: David Frankel
Screenwriter: Aline Brosh McKenna
Based on the novel by: Lauren Weisberger
Producer: Wendy Finerman
Executive producers: Karen Rosenfelt, Joe Caracciolo Jr.
Director of photography: Florian Ballhaus
Production designer: Jeff Gonchor
Music: Theodore Shapiro
Costume designer: Patricia Field
Editor: Mark Livolsi