“The Devil Wears Prada” is an expertly crafted entertainment, pure and not so simple, and it’s a great deal of fun. Screenwriter Aline McKenna and director David Frankel have created the world of fashion in a bubble that flows through the streets and buildings of New York like a sealed amoeba. No one is invited in without spectacular fashion sense and a hot set of political smarts, and no one leaves because this is, as they say repeatedly, “the job every girl would kill for.
“Devil” is about the exception, a Northwestern graduate named Andrea Sachs (Anne Hathaway) who comes to “Runway,” the Voguish Holy Grail of fashion magazines, for an interview with managing editor Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). Andy is tall, dark, and pretty but dresses in the “I don’t give a damn” style of the young aspirants of Manhattan. In fact, she doesn’t give a damn; she wants to be a journalist and has set up this interview as a stop gap because she can’t get anyone to read her articles.
Andy lives near the intersection of Orchard and Broom where she shares a nest with boyfriend Nate (Adrian Grenier).This morning, clothed in ordinariness, she pours herself into the stream of other beautiful young women who are making their various ways to work, willing even to go to skyscrapers that house their ambitions as long as they can come home to the sanctuary of The Village.
Andy’s natural looks and good brain ensure an eventual physical makeover and a cerebral mastery of the field. And that’s the straightforward side of this story. The dazzle and fizz of the thing are provided entirely by Meryl Streep who commands your eyes whenever she is on screen. Look away for an instant and you will miss at least one of the multilayered moments she uses to build Miranda Priestly into the global legend that she has become.
Streep’s Miranda oozes competence, arrogance, and entitlement; she berates anyone who messes up the slightest detail of the often ridiculous errands she assigns. She is brutal to assistants who are expected not so much to carry out orders as to anticipate them. With striking gray hair cut in the same angled package as her gestures and stride, she pulls in the eyes of everyone she passes. She is a vision of the imagination.
In keeping with her delight in becoming other people, Streep has created a glorious and vulnerable monster who falters under attack only for a second or two. She is a vicious competitor and yet she is the one we care about. We root for her success in the covert fashion wars; we don’t like it when we see a trap carefully laid for her. Why? Simply watching Meryl Streep use gesture and expression to build a character is a delicious experience. As Miranda Priestly, she has become – for us - a fashion package of a thousand details.
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