Anne Hathaway looks pretty for just under two hours while Meryl Streep plays a bitch with rare patches of vulnerability for roughly the same amount of time. Everyone else except for the gay man is a two dimensional person brought onto the screen to say their lines and advance the story.
From the hit literary genre “complain about your former employers”, previous home of The Nanny Diaries (soon to be a film starring Scarlett Johansson as the titular nanny), comes The Devil Wears Prada. It’s pleasant if undemanding and displays a lack of finesse in its morality. Remember, folks: working is good, being a nice person is bad. You can’t dedicate yourself to your job without being a bitch. Know this and know this well!
Andy Sachs (Hathaway) wants to be a journalist. She somehow gets interviewed to work as the second assistant to Miranda Priestly (Streep), editor of Runway magazine. She secures the job by giving a not very forceful speech that would be accompanied by faux-sentimental music in any other film.
What follows is a predictable mélange of Andy becoming career driven and forgetting everything that made her a person.
Streep and Hathaway are the clear drawcards of this film, despite the fact that Streep is so distant that it feels as if she filmed most of her scenes against a green screen and had the other actors edited in. Just about the only time that I felt she was connecting with anyone was when she was without makeup. This is, of course, intentional. Hathaway does not do a good job of playing “fat”, but she brings the sort of earnestness that wins hearts when they’re not trying to see her topless (hint: Brokeback Mountain is the place for that, chaps).
The problem is that you’re supposed to accept that by becoming fashion conscious you become a bad person who has no time for anything else. The only antidote to all of the venom in the film is the gay man, Nigel, who has a passion for what he does without being evil. The trade-off is that he is a somewhat stereotypical gay man who has to identify with the audience by telling a story that established him as gay since childhood in a fashion that stretches plausibility (but then, I don’t have any fashion magazine following gay friends [or do I?]).
So The Devil Wears Prada plays with compromised morals by suggesting that there is no even ground to secure. The “poor but happy” and “rich but miserable” dichotomy is nothing original, and it was frankly disappointing to see Miranda grooming Andy in her image. It’s supposed to be a film about choices, but Andy is a doormat, and that’s precisely the point – but her liberation still smacks of “doormattitude”.
Beyond that, it resorts to more clichés: that of the misinterpreted kiss on the cheek, and the piece de resistance of this sort of movie – cheating on your boyfriend only to find that the cheatee, who has been a perfect gentleman up until that point, is actually a total bastard. Colour me unimpressed, Simon Baker.
Overall, The Devil Wears Prada was nice, and it had some laughs, but its message that two worlds can never be compatible is too blatantly inaccurate. It essentially labels everyone in the fashion magazine industry as a vicious cow, and consequently lacks the necessary punch for either worldly truth or fictitious drive.