The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Verdict: Better than Predator 2
The Plot: Andrea Sachs (Anne Hathaway) is a smart, idealistic, young New Yorker hoping to kick-start a successful career in journalism. Acknowledging that one can’t get anywhere in life without connections, she first gets a job as an assistant to the most prestigious and feared fashion Nazi in the world, the ironically named Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). As I mentioned, though, Andrea is a smart would-be journalist, so she really has no interest in fashion or the fashion industry. Rather, she views it as a shallow, superficial, generally dim-witted scene. What she at first doesn’t realize is that the fashion industry is Hell, and Miranda Priestly is the titular devil.
The key conflict in this fashion-centric comedy is whether or not Andrea can maintain her values in a smothering, fake, slightly evil setting. At this time I would like to point out that this is a standard plot. The admirable character starts hanging out with the bad guys in order to accomplish some goal for the greater good, but the bad guys start corrupting the admirable character. This is the plot of countless movies, books, and at least one episode of every TV show. I believe Nietzsche has a quote about this, “Battle not with fashion moguls, lest ye become a fashion mogul,” or something like that. Whatever, man, I’m not a philosopher. The point is that this is a familiar conflict.
So why do we watch it over and over again? More importantly, why do we watch it in The Devil Wears Prada, where the stakes have never been lower? Well, the reason this plot can be new and interesting in The Devil Wears Prada, is because it has new and interesting characters in a new and interesting setting. Wait, what? The New York fashion scene is new and interesting? Yes. This movie makes the fashion industry interesting. The reason it succeeds is because it takes this dubious setting completely seriously. It is not a joke; it is not a gimmick; it is not there solely to entice teenage girls who like to look at pretty things. I repeat: this is a comedy about fashion that takes fashion seriously rather than simply making easy fashion jokes that only young girls who pay attention to fashion would understand. Instead, it uses its setting responsibly and has the environment shape and develop believable characters with real motivations and problems and depth. These concepts are largely foreign to chick flicks about clothes. I’m looking at you, Sex and the City.
What’s more, this is a pretty well directed movie, too. Director David Frankel seems to understand his setting pretty well. He uses costumes and makeup to divulge information about the characters. For example, if we have a scene in which a character is really opening up and showing us who they are in essence, they don’t wear makeup. He keeps this up; the more makeup a person wears, the less familiar we are with that character at that time. This is both clever and effective, and not at all what I was expecting from this movie.
Speaking of things I wasn’t really expecting from this movie, the performances were excellent all around. Anne Hathaway pretty much plays that stock Anne Hathaway character that she was stuck with up until The Dark Knight Rises, but even so, she brings some depth to an otherwise flat character. A lesser actress wouldn’t have been serious about a character struggling to maintain her morals in the fashion business. But hey, Anne Hathaway is not a lesser actress. She even manages to hold her own against the formidable and always wonderful Meryl Streep, who really could have played Miranda Priestly as kind of a flat villain, but, because she’s Meryl Streep, chooses instead to make this evil, sadistic bitch somewhat relatable. In the supporting cast we have a thoroughly lovable Emily Blunt, playing Priestly’s head assistant, Emily. Her ambitions are kind of superficial, but Blunt plays it straight and we get the impression that she represents a possible future for Andrea.
What am I at? 689 words? I have room for a paragraph about Stanley Tucci.
So yeah, Stanley Tucci is in this movie. He plays an incredibly sarcastic, incredibly gay fashion designer named Nigel, and he’s just the best. Initially there just to criticize Andrea for wearing that (see Mean Girls), he gradually becomes Andrea’s friend and pseudo-role model. If Emily is Andrea five years down the line, then Nigel is Andrea twenty years down the line. Nigel enjoys his work. He loves fashion, and he always has, but he has worked for Miranda for ages, and although it seems that he’s the only person she respects, she still controls his every move, and is more than willing to snuff out any opportunity that comes his way just to cement her own position. Despite how sad and desperate his situation is, waiting years and years for a shot at his dream promotion, Nigel still has time to be so damn sassy. Man, I love that guy.
Anyway, on the off chance that some of you haven’t seen this movie, y’all should check it out. It’s delightful.