- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

It’s a familiar tale: Naive young thing goes to New York City in search of fame and fortune — or at least a career — and becomes quickly disillusioned, selling her soul before finding her integrity again.

Luckily for the makers of “The Devil Wears Prada,” moviegoers never seem to tire of this well-worn plot. Luckily for us, director David Frankel finds plenty of fun in it. His film is a surprisingly thoughtful look at an industry about which there is much to love and, deliciously, much to hate.

“The Devil Wears Prada” is based on the best-selling roman a clef by Lauren Weisberger, who spent a year as Vogue magazine Editor in Chief Anna Wintour’s assistant. The novel was widely rumored to be the writer’s attempt at revenge. The names have all been changed, of course — the magazine is Runway, and the titular devil is Miranda Priestly — but the movie slyly references reality with a sequence set to Madonna’s “Vogue.”

Anybody who has held a job should appreciate the trials of Andrea Sachs. Andy arrives in New York a freshly minted Northwestern journalism graduate hoping to make her way to the hallowed halls of the New Yorker. Instead, the unfashionable, earnest girl (played with charming lightness by “The Princess Diaries’” Anne Hathaway) somehow ends up at the world’s biggest fashion magazine. If she sticks it out for a year, any job in journalism could be hers.

Meryl Streep’s evil editrix makes that a difficult prospect. She is, put simply, the boss from hell. Every morning, she throws one of her many furs — like Miss Wintour, Miranda is politically incorrect in this regard — onto Andy’s desk, not even saying hello before commencing to issue a flurry of impossible demands. She refuses to even pronounce her underling’s name correctly.

“She’s a notorious sadist and not in a good way,” hot young writer Christian Thompson (Simon Baker) explains. Christian is one of the big city’s many temptations.

Andy starts out ignorant, even disdainful, of the world in which she finds herself. (“Gabbana. How do you spell that?” she asks when taking a message, before the caller hangs up.) She believes that being above fashion makes her a better person than the “clackers” whose stilettos echo through the halls of Runway. But Miranda reminds Andy — and any skeptics in the audience (this reviewer and her Prada bag, admittedly, were not) — that fashion is one of man’s great accomplishments. Chanel, Dior, Valentino (who has a cameo in the film) aren’t just names; they’re artists who brought beauty to everyday life. “What they did was greater than art because you live your life in it,” says Nigel, Andy’s mentor, played with perfect comic timing by Stanley Tucci. “Well, not you …”

Andy is soon hooked. And thus follows the film’s second theme: how work, especially for women, conflicts with love and friendship. Miranda’s outrageous demands — get her on a plane out of Miami during a hurricane — take over Andy’s life. Down-to-earth boyfriend Nate (Adrian Grenier of “Entourage”) and best friend Lilly (Tracie Thoms) are bewildered and resentful of Andy’s transformation from frumpy to foxy. Nate is the latest in a long line of movie men to insist their women choose between love and career.

Even Miranda, whose seemingly perfect life and family aren’t, may have to admit that even commanding women can’t have it all. Miss Streep imbues her comic creation with enough pathos to make us understand why Andy might grow to like, or at least respect, her. The actress’s work also suggests why powerful women often inspire so much love and hate.


TITLE: “The Devil Wears Prada”

RATING: PG-13 for some sensuality

CREDITS: Directed by David Frankel. Written by Aline Brosh McKenna based on the novel by Lauren Weisberger

RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes

WEB SITE: https://www.devilwearspradamovie.com/


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