(This was a film review assignment for my magazine journalism class.)
“The Devil Wears Prada,” the film adaptation of Lauren Weisberger’s bestselling novel, satirizes the ever competitive and cut-throat fashion magazine industry, with scenes of Jimmy Choo shoes, glamour shots of Paris and hilarious mental breakdowns of the editorial staff that’s behind the glossy sheets of Runway, the film’s take on Vogue.
Directed by David Frankel, the film from 2006 follows Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), a recent college graduate and an aspiring journalist who somehow winds up working at Runway, the top fashion magazine in the world. Despite landing the coveted position as assistant to the editor-in-chief, Miranda Priestly (played by the iconic Meryl Streep), the film’s opening scene reveals Andy is not at all a typical Runway girl.
The film’s opening montage sets the tone of “The Devil Wears Prada” through upbeat music, shots of New York City’s busy streets and the glamorous morning routines of the city’s editorial “It” girls, all while showcasing how completely unaligned our protagonist’s “girl-next-door” personality is compared to the well-groomed and somewhat snobby women who work in the fashion magazine industry. They wake up to coffee, as she grabs an onion bagel for breakfast. They effortlessly hail cabs in heels, while she pushes through the busy subway. Without a single piece of dialogue, that montage alone promises comedy, drama, scandal and a whole lot of stand-out, fashionable moments.
The characters of Devil Wears Prada make the film what it is. But the perfectly-timed soundtrack, that includes the works of U2 and Madonna, pairs well with the cinematography by Florian Ballhaus, and is worth appreciating, especially in telling Andy’s transformation throughout the film. However, the complexities of each character also make this movie a hit.
Though you’re supposed to root for Andy and empathize with her doe eyes, blind sense of fashion and vast naivety for anything other than what she has learned in her college newsroom at Northwestern, other characters stand out as well.
For example, Streep’s performance of Miranda Priestly devours Andy. Held with a sense of poise, sophistication and intimidation as she sits in her minimalist, glass window office, that nearly perfectly replicates the bright, open office of Vogue’s Anna Wintour, Miranda instantly steals whatever scene she walks into. Her stoic eyes, pursed lips and monotone murmurs of “That’s all” makes her a frightening, yet admirable character.
Created to play the villain of the movie, Miranda shines brighter than our naive leading lady, Andy, who in one scene, walks into a fitting appointment wearing a “lumpy blue sweater… fished out of a clearance bin,” as described by Miranda. Andy laughs during the fitting, unable to understand how a belt of two relatively similar shades of “blue” could make or break a piece for the fashion magazine. Of course, this leads to one of the most jaw-dropping and memorable scenes of the film. Miranda, all in one breath, gives Andy a quotable, in-depth history lesson on the color cerulean, asserting her expertise on fashion and gaining the respect of all viewers of the film. She ends the lecture by saying, “Your sweater was chosen for you by the people in this room,” which leaves Andy an emotional mess, but also adds a level of excitement to the film.
Our protagonist Andy would’ve been worth rooting for if she had just hustled a little bit more and ditched her lame attitude early on. At times, her ego and unwillingness to put in effort made her unlikable, though I could see it was supposed to make her appear more relatable to those uninterested in the fashion world.
Fortunately, characters like the hilariously dramatic and oh-so stressed out Emily (played by Emily Blunt) and the very wise and comical Nigel (played by Stanley Tucci) bring light and laughter to the film. The two were my absolute favorite characters and without them, the film would’ve just been about a whiny assistant who gets bossed around by an intimidating editor in chief.
Emily’s relationship to Andy is expectedly catty, yet at times sweet, while Nigel single handedly plays the biggest role in turning Andy into a respectable Runway girl and ultimately finding her voice and groove at the magazine.
The biggest downfall of the film, however, lies in Andy’s inner circle. Her friends and her boyfriend, placed on screen to represent Andy’s true values and her most authentic self, fall flat and instead make her seem shallow and problematic for ever putting up with them in the first place.
The characters’ lack of depth is obvious. They made it impossible for me to sympathize with the disappointment they felt for Andy after watching her transform, because it was hard for me to even understand why they would care. They didn’t seem like they were ever true friends anyways, and her dead-beat boyfriend Nate Cooper (played by Entourage’s Adrian Grenier) obviously wasn’t winning the title of “best boyfriend of the year” anytime soon.
This of course, made the ending oh so more infuriating for a viewer like me, who couldn’t stand to see Andy tolerate her boyfriend’s snide comments (“What was it, a phone interview?), misogynistic views (“Why do women need so many bags?”) and snobbiness towards food and his career (“There’s like $8 of Jarlsberg in there!”). Okay Nate, if you can be this extra and passionate about a grilled cheese sandwich, you can be understanding about your girlfriend’s new career.
Leaving Andy’s social life behind, “The Devil Wears Prada” does do a good job at giving insight into the magazine industry, with scenes that mock the actual day-to-day schedules of an editorial team. Scenes like the preview, delivering “the book” or when Andy ran all over the streets of NYC to find an unreleased Harry Potter manuscript for Miranda’s daughters, show how high-stress and ridiculous these fashion assistant jobs really are. Andy receives phone calls from Miranda every time she’s out with friends or family, and her willingness to drop whatever she’s doing to fulfill Miranda’s task, reveals her appreciation and dedication for the job.
Towards the end, the film picks up on its drama aspect by throwing in scandal and backstab, the perfect recipe for a blockbuster. We watch as Andy gets an even darker view of the fashion magazine world and also sees another side to Miranda. Vulnerable for only a mere second, Miranda reveals she is clearly not someone to be messed with.
“The Devil Wears Prada” still remains timeless and iconic in 2019. However, many quotes in the film would never slide in today’s generation (ie: the constant body shaming that Andy endures from everyone at Runway), but it’s understandable being the film was created in 2006, which was very judgmental time in the fashion world, compared to now where editorials have become more open to women of all shapes and sizes.
If you enjoy witty dialogue, over-the-top crying scenes and enviable high-fashion looks, “The Devil Wears Prada” is worth a watch.
Director: David Frankel
Writers: Aline Brosh McKenna, Lauren Weisberger (Novel)
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Adrian Grenier
Running Time: 1h 49m
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance