The Devil Wears Prada [DVD]
Director : David Frankel
Screenplay : Aline Brosh McKenna (based on the novel by Lauren Weisberger)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2006
Stars : Meryl Streep (Miranda Priestly), Anne Hathaway (Andy Sachs), Emily Blunt (Emily), Stanley Tucci (Nigel), Adrian Grenier (Nate), Tracie Thoms (Lilly), Rich Sommer (Doug), Simon Baker (Christian Thompson), Daniel Sunjata (James Holt)
Based on the best-selling roman à clef about the soul-sucking world of high fashion by Lauren Weisberger, who worked a stint as assistant to Anna Wintour, the infamously diabolical editor of Vogue, The Devil Wears Prada was a clever bit of counter-programming in a summer movie season glutted with big-budget action movies. Squeezed neatly in between Superman Returns and the Pirates of the Carribbean sequel, it offered viewers a sometimes candid, but ultimately sentimental human dramedy that didn’t involve superheroes, science fiction, or the supernatural.
However, don’t take that to mean that The Devil Wears Prada was any less “high concept” than other summer movies. With its ties to a moderately scandalous bestselling novel, a soundtrack packed with familiar pop tunes new and old, and a divaesque central performance by Meryl Streep that quickly had people murmuring “12th Oscar nomination,” Prada was as pre-packaged a movie event as they come. It even had its own unique brand of special effects in the form of a nonstop parade of high couture, thus taking name-dropping to new heights. Sure, the style maven name dropping is justified, if not required, by the film’s story, but you know that Jimmy Choo, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Fendi, and the like don’t at all mind hearing their names dripping from the mouths of cinematic beautiful people with the kind of reverence usually reserved for long-deceased master artists.
The heroine of the story is Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), a young woman just out of college looking for meaningful employment in New York City. Armed with her Northwestern University diploma, a portfolio of serious articles about topics like a janitor’s union strike, and the best of intentions, she winds up landing a gig at the fictional Runway magazine, the Bible of high fashion. Andy, of course, doesn’t fit in at all--she wears frumpy sweaters, eats carbs, and basically breaks every other high fashion commandment, including not knowing who Miranda Priestly is.
Miranda Priestly is the editor-in-chief of Runway, a position from which she extends her influence across the globe. As played by Meryl Streep in one of those truly scene-stealing turns that makes you thankful that genuine character actors still exist, Miranda is a humorless, driven, grandiose diva who moves through a wake of devoted minions everywhere she goes. With a shock of brilliantly gray-white hair and a stare that can melt flesh, she commands every space she enters and demands of others the impossible. Her manner of speech is strong, clipped, and only as long as it needs to be; she clearly has not the time nor the inclination to entertain anything she feels is beneath her (which is just about everything).
There are a few brief bits scattered about that suggest the film is potentially interested in the gender dynamics of Miranda’s power, floating the idea that, if she were a man, no one would think of her as “the Dragon Lady.” Yet, Miranda’s requests are sometimes so ridiculous that they transcend male or female; after all, the demand that one’s assistant obtain copies of the most recent Harry Potter novel before its publication so her twins can read it is absurd from anyone, man or woman.
Andy accepts the position as Miranda’s assistant--one she is constantly told a million girls would die to have--only because she thinks it will eventually open doors at other publications like The New Yorker. Thus, she endures the constant and not particularly subtle mockery of her co-workers, most notably Miranda’s snooty second assistant, Emily (Emily Blunt), and the magazine’s fashion director, Nigel (Stanley Tucci), who ultimately emerges as a sympathetic character if only because he is a reflection of Andy: someone who has submitted to his position with the hope of eventually moving on.
What Andy doesn’t count on, though, is getting sucked into the world of fashionistas, which she initially finds silly and trite. But, once she puts on her first pair of Jimmy Choos, she finds herself being inextricably drawn into the allure of high fashion, which is ultimately just another form of power. The film suggests, but never really emphasizes, that high fashion has less to do with art than it does with control. One of the film’s most striking moments is when Miranda, in a brief, stern speech based on a particular blue sweater, informs Andy of the impossibility of maintaining any sense of genuine individuality in a consumer culture. Unfortunately, she is so effective in this monologue that it saps the movie of any real sense of redemption.
Because, after all, The Devil Wears Prada is ultimately about Andy’s deliverance from fashion hell. She may temporarily lose her soul to high heels and stylish skirts and the idea that a size 6 is somehow bovine-ish, but it’s only temporary. Andy is too good, too pure, and too ideal to become anything less than her true aspirations, a fact that keeps the film from every becoming truly wicked. Yet, against its own will, the story undermines its own happy conclusion because, even if Andy breaks free of Miranda’s control (and, by extension, the control of the entire fashion industry), she will always be a pawn, even if she doesn’t know it.
|The Devil Wears Prada DVD|
|The Devil Wears Prada is available in both widescreen and pan-and-scan DVDs, as well as on Blu-Ray.|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox|
|Release Date||December 12, 2006|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|The Devil Wears Prada’s bold, eye-popping cinematography is beautifully served by the widescreen anamorphic transfer on this DVD (for all that is holy, avoid the pan-and-scan disc--which reminds me, why is anyone still selling pan-and-scan?). The bright colors of the high fashion world look gorgeous throughout, with fine detail that brings out all the nuances of the film’s environs. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack works primarily to highlight the soundtrack’s long litany of pop tunes, all of which sound excellent.|
|The audio commentary is a lively affair since it was recorded with all the main behind-the-scenes players: director David Frankel, producer Wendy Finerman, costume designer Patricia Field, screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, editor Florian Ballhaus, and cinematographer Mark Livolsi. The commentary covers a significant amount of information, from the performances, to the sets, to what got cut out and why (you also learn, not surprisingly, the name of the designer of virtually every costume in the movie). |
There are five featurettes (running between 3 and 11 minutes in length) that cover various aspects of the film’s production and feature interviews with all the major players from the commentary, as well as all the lead actors. “Trip to the Big Screen” discusses the process of adapting the novel, with particular focus on how the character of Miranda was changed from page to screen; “NYC and Fashion” looks at the film’s relation to the fashion world and the location shooting in New York City; as the title implies, “Fashion Visionary Patricia Field” is a love letter to the film’s costume designer and her fabulous red hair and gravelly voice; and “Getting Valentino” looks at how the producers serendipitously got iconic Italian designer Valentino Garavini to appear in the film. “Boss From Hell,” which is the only featurette not presented in anamorphic widescreen, is a 3-minute promotional video that includes interviews with people talking about their worst bosses.
The 15 deleted scenes, which together run about 21 minutes, can be played with optional commentary by Frankel and Livolsi discussing why they were cut (interestingly, some of this cut footage Frankel had never seen until recording the commentary). They range from bits that were cut from existing scenes to entire segments that were cut out. There is also an amusing five-minute gag reel (let’s face it--it’s makes you feel good to know that Meryl Streep screws up, too) and an original theatrical trailer.
Copyright ©2006 James Kendrick
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