July 6, 2006

Movie Review: The Devil Wears Prada

One of the best things about being a movie fan, and giving all types of films a shot, are those times when you go into a theater with low to no expectations, basically just hoping for an entertaining movie, and seeing something that turns out to be really good. An example of a time like that was The Devil Wears Prada. I've never been much of a Meryl Streep fan, although time after time she puts on good performances (I have similar reservations with Nicolas Cage, who has had some fine performances in underrated films), this is an excellent performance, and went a long way towards winning me over. Then there is Stanley Tucci, I have only seen a couple of his performances, but he is excellent here. Then the story just won me over. Getting caught offguard is one of the joys of movie watching, and this is most definitely a joy.

Watching this will make you feel better about your own job. If you think you are underpaid, belittled, inadequate, overburdened, and drowning then this may change your outlook. Meryl Streep is Miranda Priestley, the ultimate diva, and the mind behind Runway, a top fashion magazine. She is the Queen and everyone else must bend to her whim, and if you don't, may God have mercy on your soul. While Streep owns every scene she is in, this is not really her tale. Enter Anne Hathaway's Andrea Sachs, a young, wide-eyed innocent looking for a job, and ending up in an industry that she is ill-suited for.

On the surface, The Devil Wears Prada is sort of like a coming of age story about a young girl finding her way in the world. As the story progresses, I found myself sympathizing with Andi's plight. She decides to use the job as a stepping stone, and ends up becoming entrenched in the lifestyle, and I was cheering her on every step of the way. She transforms herself, in ugly duckling fashion, from this ordinary girl looking to get ahead, into this fashion concious world where she exceeds the expectations. Along the way she begrudgingly wins the respect of her peers, and finds herself a mentor in the person of Nigel, played by Stanley Tucci. But that is only the surface.

I left the theater thinking that this was a good movie, it made me feel better about my own job and was just a lot better than I had hoped. The further I got from the theater, the more this film dug itself into the gray matter and the soft underbelly became exposed. This was not about a sweet girl working hard to get ahead and then discovering what she really wants from life, this is a subversive little gem about how you can be molded to be someone you're not by an outside force. Essentially, this shows how you can be made to be part of the system without realizing it, drinking the Kool-Aid as they say. Andi is twisted into what Miranda wants, and upon reflection it is fascinating because it had me fooled as well. Andi is made into what she once made fun of, and she doesn't realize it, worse, she tries to justify her new image to her friends.

This whole other level of story is a credit to the writer, director, and cast. They all came together and made this gem of a movie. I have not read the novel, by Lauren Weisberger, so I do not know what, if anything was changed, but the script from Aline Brosh McKenna is fantastic. It is smartly written and perfectly balanced, delivering pop cinema with a brain, a delightful concoction. In the director's chair is David Frankel, whose body of work consists of well regarded TV fare, he does a fine job here, but I think the cast did most of the work for him, but it always looks good. Lastly there is the cast, Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci, Emily Blunt, and Adrian Grenier hit all the right notes. Streep does run away with her scenes, she toys with your feelings and leaves you hurt and upsetm while covering her own insecurities. It may not be her story, but she is captivating in this role.

Bottomline. Wow, excellent film. This was a surprise on so many levels. This is one of those movies that really comes out of left field. When I first heard the title, I was thinking of something like The Devil's Advocate for women, then as the trailers camer out, I hoped for a fun comedy. What I got was something wholly different and much better. This is definitely one to see.

Highly Recommended.
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