Judge Brett Cullum is a paragon of fashion in his Wrangler jeans and Walmart T-shirts.
Miranda Priestly: You have no sense of fashion…
The Devil Wears Prada is not the vicious indictment of the fashion world nor the black comedy the best-selling book by Lauren Weisberger promised it could be. No, it is something far more likable if less ambitious—a solid chick flick comedy that takes place at work. If you're searching desperately for a mean-spirited vision of Vogue's crushingly cruel real life editor Anna Wintour, look elsewhere than this film adaptation. Frankly, the movie would be perfectly suitable for the entire family were it not for the fact for its entire running time Anne Hathaway is referred to as "fat and plain" with no fashion sense. The Devil Wears Prada is a simple Cinderella story where a young girl finds her way largely thanks to the guidance and life lessons she learns while working as an editor's assistant at a high profile fashion magazine. It's simple, direct, and charming. But does that make it fashionable?
The Devil Wears Prada has an amazingly strong cast running through a simple city fantasy. Disney princess Anne Hathaway (Ella Enchanted) moves into a more adult role as Andy, which gives the actress a chance to shine. It is easy to like her, and she carries the movie ably. Andy is a young smart journalist who finds herself working for a dragon lady chief editor of the nation's leading fashion magazine called Runway (easily recognizable as Vogue). Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep, Out of Africa) tortures her young charges with impossible demands and unreal expectations. Streep gives an Oscar-worthy turn as "the boss from hell" simultaneously making us hate and feel for a woman who has been turned to stone by clawing her way to the top of fashion. She is the main reason this movie rises above being merely an amiable chick flick. Ample support is given by Emily Blunt (Irresistible) who turns in a solid comedic performance as "the other more experienced assistant." Stanley Tucci (Lucky Number Slevin) gives off a warm vibe as Andy's cheerleader and confidant throughout her stint at the magazine. Andy starts off homely and unimpressed with the fashion world, but she is transformed by her coworkers and sucked into the industry. All of this doesn't sit well with her boyfriend (Adrian Gernier, Entourage), and soon Andy has to ask herself what the cost of her profession will be to her relationships and soul.
The original novel was a stark, hellish account of a bad job at a fashion magazine, but the movie tries to examine a moral conundrum of what price success carries. The fatal flaw of the adaptation is we are asked to judge Miranda and Andy's allegiance with her, but by the end we like Streep's character enough to forgive her abusive nature. She doesn't demand that anybody do anything wrong, and Andy's descent and fall from grace at the movie's climax isn't all that far to fall. She's only asking the girl to be ambitious and a workaholic, and the rewards seem to be great. There isn't a compelling struggle, and in the end Andy has grown and come into her own thanks to Miranda's heavy hand. What's so wrong with that? Ironically, Hathaway took on this project to escape her Disney queen title, but the story is softened from the book's sneer so much that Walt would have approved the project for his family studio.
Don't think my criticism of the structure of the adaptation means I didn't enjoy this film. What The Devil Wears Prada does well is give its audience a strong big screen episode of Sex and the City. That should be no surprise since the director (David Frankel) is a veteran of the HBO series. Patricia Field provides the fashions as she did often for Sarah Jessica Parker, and the whole story revolves around New York. Even though the planned Sex and the City big screen treatment fell apart, here is a nice substitute for it with a younger protagonist. The Devil Wears Prada is a great cast wearing impressive clothes romping through NYC. It's fun, it looks great, and you'll smile all the way through it. It's doubtful the film will be regarded as a classic years from now, but at the moment it's a well put together collection of performances and clothes. Much like the fashion it portrays, you'll love it for a season and forget about it years from now.
DVD Verdict was sent a screener copy of The Devil Wears Prada, so analyzing the picture and sound is a challenge. The movie has a bright color palette that looked fine in the copy given. I saw pixelation on some of the more aggressive patterns of the clothes, and the film looked a little soft in many places. Surround sound does a good job even though the film is mainly dialogue and music with a hint of atmospherics in the rear speakers. The real surprise is how loaded the extras are. Front and center is a very lively group commentary track with the director David Frankel, fashion icon Pat Field, producer Wendy Finerman, and other key crew members. They discuss the challenge of adapting Weisberger's text for the silver screen, and identify the designers represented by the clothes. Field has a fascinating insight in fashion, and her work is given its due extremely well throughout the discussion. Four fluffy featurettes don't go in depth, but do offer a glimpse in making the project. There is a wealth of fifteen deleted scenes, many of which should have made the final cut. The gag reel is well done, and it's nice to see a pro like Streep laugh uncontrollably as she misses a desk with her stylish coat. All in all this is a great DVD of a good movie.
The Devil Wears Prada is an enjoyable chick flick that fans of Sex and the City should find pleasurable. Audience members who read the novel will hardly recognize the story since it was fleshed out to be kinder and gentler in this incarnation. It misses the black humor the book delivered so mercilessly, and expands the relationships to fit Hollywood stereotypes fashioning it into an all too familiar Cinderella tale set in the big city. Yet somehow Disney-fying the material works in its favor if only because Weisberger's novel was an endurance test of how much a girl could take before she cracked. The movie version simply depicts Andy growing up, and figuring out what's important to her. In the end it's a likable film with stronger performances and design elements than it ever deserved. The main reason to check out this disc is Meryl Streep who turns in her usual immaculate performance. The revelation is the veteran thespian handles the comedy and drama with equal flair, something few of her projects have afforded her to this point. Meryl is nowhere near the Prada clad devil of the novel's title, rather more of a minor demon in Donna Karan. There is depth in her character, and she elevates everyone around her to make the modelish posing seem more astute and clear. It's a fine fun movie that girls will raise their cosmo glasses to with no hesitation.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary with Director David Frankel, Producer Wendy Finerman, Costume Deisgner Patricia Field, Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, Editor Mark Livolsi, and Director of Photography Florian Ballhaus
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