Monday, October 16, 2006

Movie Review: The Devil Wears Prada

From rags to glamazon

Perhaps I have a short term memory. How else could I explain calling this by far the best movie I have seen this year? No, it’s not a question of amnesia at all. Even Barry Ronge describes this five star flick as radiating class in every frame of film. That it does.

If you don’t know by now, Devil is a flick about the fashion industry. It works so well because it’s such an honest (and somehow innovative) approach. It’s honest because it’s based on the true story of a young student, with no interest in fashion, who worked as an assistant for Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue. Lauren Weisberger’s book was an attempt to exact vengeance on a boss from hell. This film is filled with satire, but lacks the bitterness of the book. It’s an innovative approach because it manages to poke fun at the absurdly ridiculous conceit of the fashion industry (and its moguls) whilst captivating and dazzling us with its flawless (but apparently meretricious) depictions of human beauty. Those depictions in this film are literally breathtaking.

Meryl Streep plays the very stylish editor of an iconic fashion magazine called Runway. For me it’s another Oscar Award winning performance from her. This is the same woman who acted so memorably in beautiful films like Adaptation, The Hours, Out of Africa and the Bridges of Madison County. Meryl Streep remains one of Hollywood’s most astute actors, and this is perhaps her most intelligent performance yet as overbearing and imperious Miranda Priestley. In the closing few scenes of the movie you begin to see Miranda with her guard down. The flick gets especially deep and revealing in one scene near the end (the hotel room in Paris) where she is not wearing a stitch of make-up, and in two follow up close-ups (even with the make-up back on) we’re allowed to see slight flaws: there’s a spidery trace of old age and fatigue now, on that otherwise ivory smooth face.

At one point, in the limo, she tells her assistant Andrea (played by Anne Hathaway) ‘everyone wants this’, referring to their glamorous lives. It’s not hard to imagine that we do, or to pretend that beauty, even when it is made up, is real, and worth everything. But of course it isn’t. Beauty doesn’t last, it gets old, or covered up, or superseded by something more beautiful. Thus a fixation on what is merely beautiful has to be shallow and temporary, because it is so fleeting, so transient. And to base a life on being beautiful is to be engaged in a war, from day one, against the forces of entropy (gravity, time and the like).

Anne Hathaway’s performance is superb. She transforms into a heartbreakingly gorgeous girl (from an already stunning jersey wearer). She has incredible big brown eyes and succulent lips, a sunny persona – a contrast to co-worker Emily Blunt’s lunar, steelier and skinnier appearance.

Stanley Tucci is one of those actors whose names we’ll never remember, even if we remember him from movies like The Core (with a full head of hair). He does a lot better here as an effeminate and obviously gay stylist, with a sharp tongue.

Devil is a film about the personal cost of being perfect. It’s also a film that gives you a warm, devil may care buzz that lasts for days. Oh, and one more thing: If you work in the fashion world darling, do not let your boss watch this film!

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