[box cover]

The Devil Wears Prada

There's a basic law of economics that applies to all work — the greater the amount of people who are willing to do a particular job will directly affect the pay and working conditions of said job, and not in a good way. Andrea 'Andy' Sachs (Anne Hathaway) is about to learn this as she accepts a position as second assistant to Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), editor of New York-based Runway magazine. It's not that Andy is particularly interested in the magazine's stock-in-trade — the designers, models, and celebrities who inhabit the various jet-settings of international haute couture — but as a top journalism grad ready to make her way into the professional world, she understands that even one year at Runway could open a lot of doors for her. However, what she doesn't count on is Miranda Priestly herself — the sway she holds over the fashion industry is so dominant that she barely manages to recognize those in her own office as actual people, a situation in which others are willingly complicit. Stiletto-wearing "clackers," as they're known, accept low-level jobs for the fashion perqs they include, while Runway's creative director, Nigel (Stanley Tucci), clings to Miranda's shadow as if it were a life-raft rising above a sea of polyester blends and comfortable shoes. Put simply, Andy just does not fit in, a fact recognized by her boyfriend — aspiring chef Nate (Adam Grenier) — more than herself. But as Miranda's incessant demands become more and more unreasonable (she insists Andy secure a private jet to get her out of Miami during a hurricane; she also demands the unpublished manuscript of the next Harry Potter book for her twin daughters), Andy's competitive nature comes to the fore, and suddenly she's determined not to quit, no matter how difficult her job becomes. However, after falling out with her boyfriend and allowing herself to be romanced by a well-known writer (Simon Baker), she suddenly realizes that she's developed a loyalty toward Miranda that extends far beyond anyone's expectations.

When Lauren Weisberger's chick-lit novel The Devil Wears Prada first appeared in 2003, most critics noted that the character of Miranda Priestly appeared to be a thinly veiled roman à clef of longtime Vogue editor Anna Wintour — a suspicion bolstered by the fact that Weisberger interned at the magazine and had access to plenty of inside dish. Meryl Streep's assumption of the role for the 2006 film version set even more tongues wagging, but virtually everyone involved denies that Priestly is meant to be Wintour: Weisberger simply says it ain't so, Streep had never met Wintour, and the woman in question herself showed up for the film's premiere (reportedly wearing Prada, no less). As games of gossip go, it's a fun one, but The Devil Wears Prada is about more than a powerful magazine editor. At its heart, it's an archetypal, somewhat formulaic journey from innocence to experience, as naive Andy gradually learns about the working world and how her own ambition fits in with some complex personal relationships. And while the story soaks in a highly insulated world of wealth, taste, and inside knowledge, it also works as a defense of the fashion industry. It's easy enough to dismiss haute couture as capitalism at its greatest excess: the act of selling people things they don't need for exorbitant sums. But fashion is also about commerce — measured in the billions per year — and at its most ethereal, it's about art, which means that those who "get it" do so passionately. Andy may not "get it" at any point of the story, but we at least are allowed a glimpse into the very complicated Miranda Priestly, the woman with "the only opinion that matters," a temple-guardian whose daily decisions trickle down to countless half-off racks within a few years. By the end, we can't doubt that her commitment to the industry is genuine, even admirable. But we are still left to wonder if power itself is inherently corrosive, or if those who are inherently corrosive are the most likely to rise to power.

*          *          *

Fox's DVD release of The Devil Wears Prada offers an excellent anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a feature commentary by director David Frankel, who's joined by various crew members. Also on board are the featurettes "The Trip to the Big Screen" (12 min.), "NYC and Fashion" (6 min.), "Fashion Visionary Patricia Field" (8 min.), "Getting Valentino" (3 min.), and "Boss from Hell" (2 min.), as well as 15 deleted scenes (with optional commentary and "play all"), a gag reel (5 min.), and TV spots & theatrical trailers. Keep-case.
—JJB



Back to Quick Reviews Index: [A-F] [G-L] [M-R] [S-Z]

Back to Main Page