Thursday, 23 April 2015

Movie Review: The Devil Wears Prada (2006)


An inside look at the fashion industry, The Devil Wears Prada combines cutting comedy with career drama and emerges with a winning outfit.

In New York City, Andrea "Andy" Sachs (Anne Hathaway) joins the staff of Runway magazine as the second assistant to editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). Andy has aspirations to be a serious journalist, could not care less about fashion, and dresses accordingly, much to the horror of first assistant Emily (Emily Blunt). Miranda is a living legend of the fashion world, a humourless trend-setting titan who looks after every detail of what goes into the magazine and demands nothing but perfection from her staff.

Andie is a complete misfit in the office, and struggles to keep up with the Miranda's obsessive and often menial demands. But she gets some advice and support from Runway's art director Nigel (Stanley Tucci), and gradually she finds her legs and earns Miranda's grudging respect. But as Andie grows more fond of her career and the world of fashion, her behaviour and interests change, causing a rift with boyfriend Nate (Adrian Grenier). Things get even more complicated when up-and-coming writer Christian Thompson (Simon Baker) takes a liking to Andie and starts pursuing her romantically. With Miranda as a mentor and the fashion world now a viable career option, Andie has to decide between her old and new values.

Based on the best-selling book by Lauren Weisberger, The Devil Wears Prada is a glitzy, polished romp through the world of high fashion and designer brands. Director David Frankel fully invests in creating a sparkly, glamorous, and luxurious look and feel, turning the film into a glossy fashion magazine in motion, and it works. The film succeeds in capturing all the seductive attributes of an industry that targets women and specializes in creating and selling new "must-haves" every month.

It's a powerful, fully-perfected and finely-honed bubble world, and even level-headed, idealistic Andie is sucked in. The film soars well beyond a satire or comedy by carefully tracing Andie's path from could-not-care-less to an insider in tune with the power politics that decide winners and losers behind the scenes. Andie and Miranda initially inhabit different planets, and the strength of the script (by Aline Brosh McKenna) resides in cleverly stripping away the dissimilarities and finding the core of two women who may have a lot more in common than either of them cares to admit.

The visual highlights include several snappy montage sequences brilliantly edited by Mark Livolsi and set to a stylish soundtrack. In the film's opening sequence the focus is on the effort women routinely go through in preparing to face the workday. Miranda's montage features her patented throw-the-coat-and-bag-at-Andie's-desk move; while Andie's fashion transformation gets its own before/after in-motion treatment. Montages can be more than tiresome; The Devil Wears Prada packs in three and creates the appetite for more. And as if the snazzy Manhattan setting is not enough, the film detours to Paris for a critical week in Andie's education.

Meryl Streep revitalized her career with her epic performance as Miranda Priestly. She lost the Academy Award to Helen Mirren for The Queen, but Streep's performance is arguably the more likely to be remembered down the years. Her understated sense of superiority is a delight to watch, and she makes the simple catch-phrase "that's all..." a signature line signifying the nightmarish abyss between legends and mortals.

Anne Hathaway is perfect if more predictable as Andie, while Emily Blunt is an absolute revelation and frequently a riot as first assistant Emily, a woman fully consumed by the fashion world and her standing within it. And as Nigel, Stanley Tucci portrays the lieutenants of the fashion world, faithfully following the orders of the Mirandas but unlikely to ever get their shot at stardom or status.

Both an expose and a character-rich essay on the unexpected allure of careerism, The Devil Wears Prada is dressed to impress.






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