The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci, Adrian Grenier, Tracie Thoms, Rich Sommer, Simon Baker
Directed by: David Frankel
For all the buzz surrounding it and the pedigree of some its particulars, The Devil Wears Prada amounts to little more than Working Girl meets The Princess Diaries, a simple, formulaic story of a fish-out-of-water (Anne Hathaway) thrust into the fast-paced world of fashion, then uses her pluck to figure it all out and succeed. As she becomes less hapless, the movie moves into the standard morality tale about how her new world has “changed” her, symbolised by disapproving looks by her former friends, until the end where our heroine rediscovers her priorities, and they all live happily ever after.
There’s nothing original or unexpected in terms of plot, and if you haven’t figured out the entire arc for Hathaway’s Andy Sachs within the first 15 minutes of the movie, this very well might be the first movie you’ve ever seen. Remove it from the adult setting of a fictional fashion magazine, and The Devil Wears Prada is pretty much an episode of Full House where DJ gets in with the popular girls while ignoring Kimmy Gibbler, only to make amends by the end of the half hour.
That said, the movie does a few things exceptionally well, allowing it to, if not rise above other movies with familiar patterns, then to at least position itself near the top. First and foremost of them is the performance of Meryl Streep as the cold as ice boss from hell Miranda Priestly. It is a truly fantastic performance, crafting a memorable character without any of the histrionics you’d expect from the villain of the piece. Streep plays Miranda with an eternal cool, never raising her voice to even a conversational level, or showing expression more exaggerated than the pursing of her lips. As a result, you instantly understand the fear and respect she induces in her underlings and colleagues, and begin to cheer for Andy to avoid her wrath, and perhaps even win her over. Streep is undoubtedly slumming it here, but never lets it show with her performance.
Hathaway is a winning and engaging personality for whom it is easy to cheer for to get ahead. She plays her character as bewildered and nonplussed without seeming stupid or resorting to the pratfall-heavy slapstick of her earlier films (or, at least what I’ve seen in previews for her earlier films… I’ve only seen her in this and Brokeback Mountain). She carries the film decently when Streep isn’t around, with Stanley Tucci chipping in as the engaging fashion director Nigel, fulfilling the fairy godmother role in helping Andy in this fairytale.
Other than that, the best reason to watch the movie is the fashions on display. I’m no expert in the field by any stretch, but I will say that if you’re into that sort of thing, then you should get enough out of this movie even if you don’t care for the story or any of the characters. Of course, if you are into that sort of thing, you probably have already seen the movie several times and don’t need me to tell you about it. Still, the costume department did such a good job being fashion forward that after Andy made her transformation, I could somewhat understand why everyone was dumping on her before, even though Anne Hathaway is anything but an ugly duckling.
In the end, The Devil Wears Prada is a movie that should play well to its audience, despite bringing very little new to the table. It has a few shining lights, with Meryl Streep outshining them all, but still doesn’t manage to be more than a thoroughly average affair.