We've all had the proverbial "bad job." In fact, so many people have had the proverbial bad job that there's a cottage industry of books and movies about having a bad job. From 9 to 5 to Office Space, the evil bosses of the world never seem to catch a break.
The Devil Wears Prada is the latest in that line and an indictment of the fashion magazine industry, based on author Lauren Weisberger's experience as an assistant to the notoriously fussy Vogue editor Anna Wintour. The film follows every tradition we've come to expect from this genre: Plucky yet unrefined Andrea (she rides the subway!) is fresh off the boat from college. She soon lucks into a job offer from Runway editor Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep
), and we know from the first scene it's going to be a terrible match. Article continues below
Andrea (Anne Hathaway
) is slow to pick up on Miranda's obsessive needs, which require her to hang up her coat and purse, fetch skirts at a moment's notice, get coffee, and do other menial tasks befitting someone who's never had a job before. But Andrea hangs in there. She knows that if she sticks it out at Runway, doors throughout the publishing industry will magically open for her and she'll be able to work just about anywhere. She wants to be a real writer of course, not a lap dog for a crusty, evil fashionista.
As noted, the film is based on the real-life experiences of Weisberger at Vogue, but you have to wonder how bad she really had it. A montage of coats being dumped on Andrea's desk is supposed to connote how poorly Andrea is treated, but really, is this so bad? Late nights and grunt work are called paying your dues, and everybody has to do it when they're starting out in a career. And really, I don't know many fresh-outta-college staffers that are showered with free clothes, parties galore, and trips to Paris. Sure, there's the "devil" calling the shots, but it's not like it comes without some major fringe benefits.
Ultimately, the film takes a tragically fatal turn when Andrea finally sells out. She cleans up her style (Princess Diaries anyone?), drops from a size 6 to 4, and starts ignoring her boyfriend, an aspiring chef. She misses his birthday party because, gulp, she has to work! And another guy kisses her on the cheek! The film derails itself further by wandering into Miranda's personal life. The Machiavellian politics of the senior editorship of Runway take the focus off of Andrea and try to turn Miranda into a sort of tragic King Lear. Everyone's out to get her, and nobody understands how important she is! Please.
The casting of Streep as Miranda is inspired, and she pulls off a rare "bad guy" role with mastery. Her ability to completely dismiss someone by simply letting her gaze wander, emoting extreme disappointment without speaking a word, is indicative of what an amazing actress she is. Too bad the material isn't up to her performance. Much of the movie comes across as mere filler, chock full of clichéd dialogue between friends and co-workers (the supporting cast is largely forgettable) that mainly serves to pad the film between some truly genius moments: Streep and Stanley Tucci
(playing Runway's art director) have at least three amazing monologues that speak to the importance of the fashion magazine world to modern society and to the economy at large. Those who would dismiss this industry as useless might take pause based on the power of these soliloquies.
Ultimately, the film is mediocre at best, namely because it just doesn't live up to the promise of its title. Priestly may be evil, but she's not the devil. She's just a tough boss that gets her way. As for the Prada, I can't say. She could be wearing the Jaclyn Smith collection and I'd never know the difference.