The Devil Wears Prada is a great example of how to make an entertaining movie without resorting to gimmicks. You don’t need a world you can hilariously pause, or a hero flying pointlessly around, or an odd fake Mexican wrestler. You just need a basic story and some laughs. It comes off so easy here that you almost take for granted how often this recipe escapes Hollywood. For the record you take one part innovative and interesting subject matter (the fashion industry) and mix it with a few twists and turns. Then you top it all off with Stanley Tucci and Meryl Streep and sit back and enjoy the deliciousness (is that a word?). I guess that might be too much to ask from an industry that’s set to bring Little Man to a theater near you, but since it is here let’s make the most of it.
The story is a fish-out-of-water tale with newly minted college grad Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) looking for a “real” writing job in New York City. She somehow lands a cherry gig at the prestigious fashion magazine Runway as an assistant to the assistant of editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly (Streep). Though the job is long on menial tasks and in an industry Andy is clueless about she figures it’s the best way to pursue her eventual dream of being a serious writer. Andy’s anti-fashion sensibilities, the fashion industry, and crazy bosses in general are but of a few of the topics mined for comedy fodder in this one. It all comes off surprisingly fresh and fully developed. The movie has a ton of laughs because it’s an equal opportunity offender. Andy doesn’t get away with being above the fray in what she considers a silly environment, instead all sides are represented equally and the industry itself actually comes off as a pretty interesting place to work. The Devil Wears Prada succeeds very well because it doesn’t fall into the trap of making the protagonist a saint. Everyone here is human; everyone is fair game and equally funny.
I’ve never seen Hathaway before, The Princess Diaries never snuck into my DVD player and I’m guessing hearing her in Hoodwinked doesn’t count for much. She does pretty well here, she certainly adds to the movie, but I wouldn’t call her irreplaceable. I’d save that label for Meryl Streep. She’s won two Oscars and Five Golden Globes but I’ve never been a huge fan. Without a doubt she is outstanding in this. She oozes a subtle menace in every scene. Tons of the laughs are derived directly from her cruel and callous nature. This film doesn’t work in the slightest without the superb Streep performance. I also want to commend Stanley Tucci’s performance throughout. Anyone who can play a mob boss in Road to Perdition and an effeminate Streep flunky here clearly has Larry Bird style range.
It can’t be all peaches and cream though and this one has a few misfires too. The use of three montages comes to mind first, that’s about two too many. A few scenes are also built up in the traditional manner of hitting you over the head with an obvious hammer. An example of this would be something like Andy coming home late a few nights because she’s been working too hard. Now guess what her boyfriend’s reaction will be? These little devil details keep the film from getting the first A grade of the summer. Luckily I know a Pirate in July who might help us out on that front.
Until then, go see The Devil Wears Prada. If you’re a woman this is practically a no-brainer. They talk about shoes and designers and the boys are cute too. Sorry to be somewhat patronizing but if a movie has the word “Prada” in the title I’m not going to hard sell the ladies. Now, for you guys out there, this is a fine date movie, trust me. It’s not crazy mushy or woman logic dopey; it’s an enjoyable movie you’ll get points for watching. You won’t even have to fake it. Decisions don’t come easier than that folks; let’s finally reward something that panders to people with smarts. Get out of the sun and go see the devil.