The Devil Wears Prada

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The Devil Wears Prada
Review (8/10)
(By Reginald Williams)

David Frankel's "The Devil Wears Prada" is a movie about high fashion (or couture) and the world behind it, made accessible through the eyes of a newcomer. You've most likely seen the formula that resides in the structure of Prada before though. A wide eyed, naive person is thrust into an alien situation, assimilates the behavior of the people around them, alienates their old friends, learns a few life lessons along the way, then reverts back to their former persona by the movie's end. (i.e. Mean Girls, Wall Street, Donnie Brasco, etc.) What saves Prada (and those films as well) from this golden-oldies formula are the performances by its two lead actors.

The first of the two leads in "Prada" is Meryl Streep. I'm unsure if she'll win because of Ellen Page's performance in Hard Candy but Streep will definitely get a Best Actress nomination. Streep doesn't have that much screen time, like Judi Dench in 1996's Shakespeare in Love, but when she is on screen, like Dench, she is in total command and at the top of her profession. Streep plays Miranda Priestly, a malevolent megalomaniac who happens to be the editor-and-chief of a posh fashion magazine called Runway. She demands and expects extreme excellence from all of her employees in all avenues of their job and an excruciatingly high level of intuitive improvisation when it comes to the tasks she sets before them. "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen" is a very familiar quote but if President Harry Truman had worked at Runway, he would have changed heat to flames and kitchen to inferno, thus rendering it "If you can't stand the flames, get out of the inferno."

The other lead actress in "The Devil Wears Prada", the newcomer in the golden-oldies formula I spoke of early, is Anne Hathaway, a young ing?nue who is steadily rising up through the young actress ranks in Hollywood, making a viable name for herself along the way. Hathaway plays Andrea Sachs, a journalism major fresh out of college who has just moved to New York City and finds herself as the new assistant to Streep's Miranda. Hathaway is effective in her part and the viewer feels her pain through a few particularly biting scenes. But it is Miranda's venom and its potency that carries the film. It is her quips, jabs and comments, along with the fashion world setting, that sustains this film and helps to buoy it above the average.

"The Devil Wears Prada" is a very entertaining, satisfying film but also a vastly predictable one. All one needs to do is reference "the formula" to know what happens throughout all three acts of this film or view previous films that have used the same recipe. If the filmmakers had followed the format of Lauren Weisberger's novel, which this film is based on and titled from, Prada would have opened with Hathaway's Andrea already ensconced in her assistant job and on one of Miranda's errands. But because screen writer Aline Brosh McKenna felt audiences needed an introduction into the fashion magazine world and to the film's protagonist, that beginning was modified to suit "the formula" and the viewer is carried on Hathaway's back through the doors of the Elias-Clark building, is enveloped in the Runway offices, and the viewer into a summer movie with above average substance and characters.

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