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Published: Friday, 6/30/2006

Movie review: The Devil Wears Prada ****

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep)
with two of her assistants, Andy
(Anne Hathaway), left, and Nigel
(Stanley Tucci) in The Devil
Wears Prada. Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) with two of her assistants, Andy (Anne Hathaway), left, and Nigel (Stanley Tucci) in The Devil Wears Prada.
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Here s a disclaimer: I never read Lauren Weisberger s bestselling novel.

But that didn t at all diminish the fun of the movie upon which it is based. The Devil Wears Prada is comically nasty entertainment at its most delightful, with much the same New York attitude of The First Wives Club, except that in Prada, most of the men are sympathetic characters.

The movie is dressed to kill, with gorgeous and sometimes bewildering couture cloaking a workplace from hell.

The cast is superb, the dialogue clever, and the directing by David Frankel so self-confident that everything continues to click, even when the gossamer-thin plot threatens to unravel faster than a sweatshop seam.

Helping to maintain a high level of credibility is that even though the characters flirt with being stereotypes or caricatures, their traits are instantly recognizable to anyone who has been in the workplace for any length of time. We may not have worked for a she-devil like Miranda Priestly, but who hasn t been unjustly criticized at one time or another? We may not be as clueless as Andy Sachs, but the sense of floundering when starting a new job is almost universal.

Miranda, the editor of Runway magazine, is played by Meryl Streep at her most deliciously witchy. She is the title character, the boss whose imminent arrival turns the workplace into a war zone: half-eaten snacks swept into trash cans, comfy shoes quickly swapped for stiletto heels, papers forced into neat stacks, and a cup of coffee at the precise temperature placed just so on her desk by an assistant with a permanent deer-in-the-headlights look.

Andy, played by Anne Hathaway, is newly graduated from Northwestern University and hoping to find her niche in New York journalism circles. After not having any luck, she interviews for a job as the second assistant to Miranda, where her co-workers are shocked (but thankfully not shocked speechless) about Andy s lack of fashion sense. Are we doing a before-and-after I don t know about? art director Nigel asks in horror when he spots the new hire.

Andy s initiation into the world of couture is not easy. She is little more than an indentured servant, hanging up Miranda s coat, getting her coffee, arranging her travel, enduring her slights and putdowns. Chained to her cell phone, Andy has almost no life at all. The only thing keeping her going is the knowledge that if she can endure Miranda for a year, she can write her journalism ticket almost anywhere.

Slowly, however, Andy is seduced into the world of couture, and with Nigel s help, she turns herself from ugly duckling into swan. And at some point, she discovers she has become one of the people she once disdained.

You have to take a lot of The Devil Wears Prada with many grains of salt. How Andy will be able to get a job writing for the New Yorker after a year of fetching coffee is beyond me. Where she gets the money to buy her clothes is another puzzle (it s hinted that Runway magazine has a huge fashion closet from which employees can borrow).

But the sense of fun is so all-encompassing, it s easy to go with the fantasy.

And that s what Prada is: a simple fantasy. Andy s makeover is nothing but an extension of Cinderella and My Fair Lady.

What is the most surprising about The Devil Wears Prada is how quickly and completely we become invested in the characters and begin rooting for them, even, thanks to Streep s considerable talents, Miranda.

It s almost a given that Streep will be excellent, and Hathaway wouldn t have been cast if she couldn t hold her own against the master. But the co-stars, notably Stanley Tucci as Nigel and Emily Blunt as Miranda s ambitious first assistant, Emily, are equally solid.

Will Andy be forever sucked into the shallow life of the fashionista? Will Miranda get her comeuppance? Who cares?

The Devil Wears Prada is irresistible, flirty fun. That it has a solid, sneaky foundation of credibility is the accessory that makes it almost perfect.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com or 419-724-6130.



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