Meryl Streep……….Miranda Priestly
Anne Hathaway……….Andy Sachs
Simon Baker……….Christian Thompson
Daniel Sunjata……….James Holt
The Devil Wears Prada is clearly a vehicle for Meryl Streep to demonstrate her comedic chops in a formulaic Hollywood flick. It works so well you’ll be wondering why the studios never thought before to exploit her incredible skills in mainstream comedic cinema.
Anne Hathaway returns to Princess Diaries form (after her boobies-flashing turn in Brokeback Mountain) as Andy Sachs, a graduate of Northwestern University who comes to New York to become a journalist. But unable to get a job writing “meaningful” news, she naively applies to Runway Magazine, in hopes the experience will get her somewhere like the New Yorker. Problem is, she’s apparently fat and in need of a major fashion makeover, so how is she to survive?
While this may seem like just another Cinderella flick, this time the wicked step-family digs deep with sharpened claws. The fashionistas of Runway Magazine (fictional stand-in for Vogue) are lead by Meryl Streep as editor-in-chief and Queen Bitch Miranda Priestly, the ultimate nightmare of a boss. Now before you think, oh I can relate, when was the last time your employer demanded a copy of Harry Potter Book 7’s manuscript on her desk by 4pm, because her twins “want to know what happens next”?
Miranda is a fabulous movie villain, and Meryl Streep’s perfectly subtle portrayal is sure to win a Golden Globe for best comedic act, if not a 14th Oscar nomination. This woman doesn’t resort to screaming hissy fits, heck she rarely even raises her voice in rage. No, that would imply one’s worth more than dirt, that they managed to get under Miranda’s marble skin, that she needs to get your attention. Meryl Streep wields condescension like an Olympic fencer and can clear a room with one disapproving look.
Anyone who’s seen Death Becomes Her and remembers the egotistical Madeleine Ashton knows Meryl is very capable of comedic villainy. We’ve just never seen it delivered with such faint iciness.
It also helps that the script sets Miranda up as a perfectionist ogre before we even meet her for the first time. Her cronies, namely the brilliantly blunt British import Emily Blunt as first assistant Emily and professionally superficial art director Nigel (Stanley Tucci), scurry around like dutiful lemmings whenever in Miranda’s presence. These accomplices also supply the raging insults and balls-breaking zingers when Miranda is too busy to hurt Andy’s feelings.
The Devil Wears Prada is really just comic fluff heightened by a tight script and hilarious performers. This becomes really obvious in scenes with Andy’s puppy-dog cute boyfriend (Adrien Grenier) and her annoying token friends (Black, check; gay, check). These folks are here only to illustrate the stages of Andy’s makeover from slob to “glamazon”, and to provide empty conflict when she must neglect them for the pressures of work. In the movie’s defense, the needy friends aren’t necessarily painted as good-hearted (with Andy as the soul-sucked sell-out). You almost get the impression, in the end, that these losers were just self-centered obstacles that got in Andy’s way. Yes, Andy’s job sucks and it’s demanding and shallow, but we all have to pay our dues for our ultimate career and our friends should respect that.
The bottom line: Outside of a few narrative hiccups, The Devil Wears Prada is a highly biting comedy with a satisfyingly bittersweet resolution. The main characters have strong arcs, including, shockingly Nigel and Emily, and you begin to feel for even the ice-cold Miranda, particularly after one vulnerable scene humanizes her in Paris. Sure it may be geared most towards a pretty specific demographic, but you don’t have to be female or gay to appreciate vicious wit.