© 2006 Ray Wong
The preview of The Devil Wears Prada was brilliant: it introduced all the major players and set up the premise nicely. Best of all, it was how the movie actually begins, so it didn't give away anything. Fortunately, the movie itself matches the preview in both tone and substance, making Prada an enjoyable experience.
Andy (Hathaway) moves to New York City to be a journalist, and her break might very well be working for Runway, the ultimate fashion magazine in the world. Well, not exactly what she sets out to do -- she becomes the second assistant to Miranda Priestly (Streep), the ultra-demanding editor-in-chief. Her job involves doing Miranda's errands such as picking up her dry-cleaning and coffee. Besides, Andy has no interest in fashion or office politics. Immediately, she is a fish out of water. Miranda's first assistant, Emily (Blunt), doesn't think much of Andy either. Miranda, however, thinks Andy is smart (and "fat") and different, somebody for her to groom.
Frustrated with her demanding and unreasonable boss, Andy seeks advice from Nigel (Tucci), who helps her transform into something that Miranda could take more seriously. It works. As Andy's confidence improves, her ambition to win Miranda's trust and approval becomes stronger. She starts to cater to Miranda's every need, ridiculous schedule and demand at the expense of her own personal life, jeopardizing her relationship with beau, Nate (Grenier). Before she knows it, she's becoming more and more like Miranda.
Streep (The Prairie Home Companion) has found a delicious role in Miranda Priestly. Her portrayal of the ice queen is perfection, what with her dead glares and a voice that never rises above certain level and yet filled with barbs. You simply can't take your eyes off of her. In comparison, Hathaway (Brokeback Mountain) is slight and obviously inexperienced. However, her genuine disposition and earnestness are very fetching, and her awkwardness around Streep is actually an asset to the role.
Blunt (Irresistible) is perfectly cast as Miranda's shallow but amiable first assistant, Emily. She manages to turn in a fun and nuanced performance, showing us a nice, mean edge but also vulnerability. Tucci (Lucky Number Slevin) has a great time playing the flamboyant but kind art director, even though the character is rather stereotypical and one-dimensional. Grenier (Entourage) has a nice supporting role as Andy's sweet and understanding boyfriend. Baker (Something New) plays Christian Thompson, a charming author with an ulterior motive. Rounding out the cast are Thoms (Rent) and Sommer (Death 4 Told) in minor roles as Andy's best friends and conscience.
The script by McKenna (Law of Attraction) has a light and fluffy feel matching the tone of Weisberger's best-selling semi-autobiographical novel. The Devil Wears Prada is a satire, an exposé of the brutal and superficial world of fashion (and publishing) in the guise of a coming-of-age story. The observations are generally sharp and witty, but also superficial and cartoonish (the jabs at wafer-thin models or insecure fashion designers are trite) at times. The story itself isn't all that fresh, and is quite predictable. What is fun about the film is the subject matter and the character of Miranda Priestly. Streep is a joy to watch.
Director Frankel (Entourage, Sex and the City) is mostly known for his television work. He instills a good sense of humor in this production, and the pace is impeccable. Mostly, he seems to stay out of his actors' way and let them do their job. Streep, for example, makes you believe that she is the devil incarnate but in fact, she is much of a slave herself to the real devil: fame, power and fortune. The question Andy has to ask -- "Who are you and what do you want in life?" -- isn't really that deep or profound or earth-shattering. The good thing is that the film doesn't take itself too seriously. Everything is handled in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. That makes it a devil of a good time.
Stars: Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci, Adrian Grenier, Tracie Thoms, Rich Sommer, Simon Baker, Daniel Sunjata
Director: David Frankel
Writers: Aline Brosh McKenna (based on Lauren Weisberger's novel)
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sensuality
Running Time: 109 minutes
Script – 7
Performance – 8
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 7
Production – 8
Total – 7.3 out of 10