Who is the Devil that Wears Prada?
Review by Madelyn Ritrosky
When I decided to check out The Devil Wears Prada, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Because the first name above the title was Meryl Streep, the film caught my attention. After seeing Anne Hathaway in Brokeback Mountain, her name drew me as well.
Having read a very brief blurb about the film prior to seeing it, I knew that the story would focus on these two women, in a business environment, in relation to each other. Sounded interesting to me. I just hoped that stereotypical portrayals and conventional plot twists would not overload the film nor steer it into a trite “teen” drama type of flick.
Once the story is set in motion, the viewer can certainly guess what the central outcome might be.
Nonetheless, the plot keeps you guessing about details along the way and reveals some of the hard choices and complexities of these two women. I liked, too, that most of the supporting characters avoid the trap of cardboard stereotypes as well, including Stanley Tucci as Nigel (an assistant editor at Runway magazine) and Simon Baker as Christian (a freelance writer with connections who’s interested in Hathaway's character).
When the movie reaches its conclusion, it does not present you with a completely neatly wrapped finish which is to the credit of the writers (Lauren Weisberger wrote the novel, Aline Brosh McKenna the screenplay) and the director (David Frankel).
Hathaway’s character, Andy Sachs, who is the film’s protagonist, is struggling to make it as a writer in New York City. She’s a relatively recent Northwestern graduate (but not so recent that she’s fresh off the plane), already settled into a small apartment with her live-in boyfriend, Nate (Adrian Grenier).
Andy applies for an assistant-to-the-editor position at the prestigious fashion magazine Runway. The thing is she applied for the position just like she applied to fifty other writing positions. Fashion is not her forté . She gets hired anyway of course. Now, this set-up smells of “serendipitous movie plot machination,” but it’s not entirely implausible, so okay.
Enter Meryl Streep as editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly. What I liked about Streep’s portrayal is the nuanced (as always) acting that allows a gradual elucidation of this hard-driving, ambitious perfectionist. While she might be described by some as a b*tch, I certainly would not describe Miranda that way. As Andy says in the film, if she were a man, her ambition and professionalism would be judged differently.
We get little glimpses into her character along the way, and we come to realize that she is fully aware of what she has sacrificed in order to live the life she has chosen. She still has regrets, she still loves her two children, and she still mourns another failed marriage. But she knows these have been her choices.
Andy follows a similar trajectory, albeit in the microcosm of her first year at Runway and in the context of her own life situation. Interestingly, she makes some choices that are fully analogous to Miranda’s. Indeed, even though she does make one choice that differs from her boss’s and which the film seems to present as an important one I don’t see that choice as being, in essentials, a whole lot different. It’s really a matter of degree rather than kind. I know this sounds rather cryptic, but I don’t want to spoil the plot, now do I?
So as I walked out of the theater and discussed The Devil Wears Prada with my friend, we wondered about the title. Who exactly is the devil? The knee-jerk response is Meryl Streep’s tough-as-nails businesswoman. But is the film that stereotypical? I don’t think so. At least I like to think that the title is a play on conventional expectation.
Anne Hathaway’s character also gets caught up in the high-stakes fashion publishing world, seduced by it to the extent that Nate tells her he no longer recognizes her. And, of course, both women (at least for a while) and numerous other women and men in the film are totally ensnared in the ruthless world the devil, if you will of haute couture fashion.
All in all, it’s a fun film that escapes triteness and will probably please women (and men) interested in a bit less convention in a “conventional” film.
The Devil Wears Prada opens in theaters on Friday, June 30, 2006.