The Devil Wears Prada throws Anne Hathaway back into familiar territory as a fish out of water who – after some much needed help – dazzles everyone with her magnificent transformation from ugly duckling into beautiful swan. We all know that the power that comes with the transformation will go to her head, alienating friends and family as a result, before she comes to her senses and returns to normalcy while still maintaining her new found status/beauty.
It’s a process which Hathaway has undergone before in The Princess Diaries (2001) and I must admit I was cautious about seeing this film as a result. It’s not that Hathaway is a poor actress, her dramatic turn in Brokeback Mountain (2005) showed that she can act, it’s just that her comedic roles are so predictable. The Devil Wears Prada – based on the best-selling book of the same name by Lauren Weisberger – does not represent a change in this trend, but is entertainingly saved by its cast.
Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) is an aspiring journalist who takes an entry level position at Runway fashion magazine in order to get a foot in the fashion world. Working as a personal assistant to Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), the editor of the publication, Andy soon discovers that the world of fashion is not as one dimensional as she had imagined and that her new boss may not actually posses a soul. As Miranda piles on the work and emotional pressure Andy is forced to adapt in order to survive in her new job. This change benefits her immensely but is also one that brings her closer to becoming like the woman she works for.
The Devil Wears Prada is predictable, yes, and could probably have been renamed and changed to become the third instalment in The Princess Diaries franchise had the need arisen but, thankfully, as a result of some great performances this film is elevated above that level.
Meryl Streep saves The Devil Wears Prada from being instantly forgettable and it would seem that the studio that made it was quick to realise this as well. The trailers promote her performance as the major selling point of the film and I would have to agree. Streep never ceases to amaze me, with each film she seems to just get better and better.
Streep’s Miranda is powered by her ability to maintain her composure in almost every situation. She is cold and calculating but never loses her cool and with this she is able to control those around her. She has the potential to explode – devouring every soul in the room if you will – but she doesn’t. As a result, her staff and the people in her life are kept on their toes at all times; and this is, in turn, where The Devil Wears Prada’s comedy emanates.
Hathaway’s character is forced to run errands and accomplish ridiculous tasks (hunt down the unpublished Harry Potter manuscript for Miranda’s kids) while trying to hold onto the person she is/was. As noted earlier, Hathaway has done this sort of role before but when combined with Streep’s performance something clicks.
Both characters play off each other wonderfully. It’s a battle of sorts as Andy’s naÃ¯ve but warm and bubbly spirit is brought into conflict with the weathered, worldly and (it would appear) soulless nature of Miranda. Vetran actor Stanley Tucci’s character, Nigel, (one of the magazine’s friendlier fashion editors) steps in to help Andy when she asks for it and his performance is delivered, as it always is, with style.
That said, I know very little about fashion so any allusions to the real fashion world (I’d never heard of Vogue editor Anna Wintour, on whom it is rumoured Streep’s portrayal is based) and the beauty – or lack thereof – of the clothes was lost on me.
Performances save the film from being another throw-away Hollywood offering. I don’t mean to be overly critical of Hathaway but I think she must know that without Streep The Devil Wears Prada would have fallen flat. Fortunately, it doesn’t and what you get is an extremely enjoyable 109 minutes.