The Devil Wears Prada
Directed by David Frankel
Since this movie is a pale imitation of a fairly generic novel, a better title might be The Devil Wears JCPenney.
Fashion… Beep! Beep!
Lauren Weisberger's novel tells an extremely simple story: plain-Jane girl graduates from Brown with dreams of writing for The New Yorker. Girl takes job as an office assistant at a major fashion magazine in hopes of paying her dues, earning a stellar recommendation in the process, and then moving her way over to the upscale magazine of her dreams.
Instead, girl gets screwed over by having to fetch coffee, this, that, and every other thing for a merciless, heartless editor named Miranda Priestly, the high priestess of Runway magazine, the fashion industry's equivalent of the Holy Bible.
Sacrificing family and friends to get a jump start in the world, the girl gets a reality check when her best friend winds up in a hospital, her boyfriend puts their relationship on hiatus, and her boss pushes her buttons one time too many. In this case, the girl's name is Andrea Sachs and she's almost perfectly played by Anne Hathaway of The Princess Diaries.
It's so simple, it would seem hard to screw up the screenplay, but that's precisely what Aline Brosh McKenna has done. Her résumé is extremely unremarkable and this will do nothing to add shine. McKenna has wrought a screenplay that takes many liberties with its source material, some minor, some substantial, and every last one is extremely, positively unnecessary.
To wit, Andrea (call her Andy for short) is no longer a Connecticut-born Brown graduate; now she's a Northwestern grad hailing from Ohio. Surely the only conceivable reason for such a petty change (but one that's nonetheless annoying in its very lack of necessity) would be to make the character more appealing to audiences in the heartland and those red states that might be less sympathetic to anything related to "high fashion."
City of Blinding Lights
Ah, if only that were the worst of McKenna's sins. Which sin should be classified as the most unforgivable? That Andy's long-time sweetheart, a guy named Alex who was a grade school teacher with a heart of gold in the book, is now a cookie-cutter support character named Nate (Adrian Grenier, Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding) who is attending cooking school?
Nah, even more egregious is what McKenna did to Lily, Andy's bestest friend in the whole wide world who also happened to be a promiscuous alcoholic in the book. Her edgy lifestyle, which led to a serious car accident toward the story's end, was a major catalyst for Andy to do that values check. Now she's a trendy, upstanding babe (Tracie Thoms, Rent), a professional photographer with a flashy exhibit of her work on display in New York City. At least she's still named Lily.
But it gets worse. There's another miscalculation, a heinous one. But that'll be saved for later. Since there's no suspense or drama in this wardrobe malfunction of a movie, perhaps this review can try to compensate.
Granted, there are some zippy one-liners and Meryl Streep, as the indomitable Miranda, does give an excellent, well-reasoned speech about how Andy's Casual Corner bargain bin sweater is really the end by-product of a decision Miranda made quite some time ago as the top level in the fashion food chain.
But the book has better laughs and puts poor Andy through far more embarrassing misadventures than this mess. Yes, Andy no longer has to sing for the security guard in order to get buzzed through the entrance of Elias-Clark. In this movie, Andy doesn't even get to donate – on Runway's dime – Starbucks to the homeless regulars she encounters on her jaunt from the coffee shop to the office.
Sympathy for the Devil
Who hasn't worked for a tyrant who can't lift a finger (or at least know of somebody who has)? Who has never been in a position where compliments were scarce but harsh criticism was a daily ritual? t least Miranda Priestly had talent and she could use that as a defense for being so snooty.
So therein lies the movie's biggest sin: toward the end, Miranda is stunned by news her husband wants a divorce. There she is, in Paris, her guard down, and Andy takes pity.
No, no, my dear. Never, ever sympathize with the devil. That's what made the book fun; there were no redeeming personality traits about Miranda other than her indisputable talent. She never, EVER let her guard down. And, in keeping with the fine tradition of big business comedies like 9 to 5 and Working Girl, Andy got the satisfaction of telling off Miranda in no uncertain terms then went back home, sold all the luxurious clothes she got for free while working at Runway, and lived off the proceeds for months.
In the movie, Andy merely flicks her cell phone in a fountain at the Place de la Concorde in Paris, returns home, and gives the clothes to Emily, one of her bitchy office colleagues.
While the movie does serve as a snicker fest (not to be confused with Snickers, the candy bar, for you super models in the audience), it's not as funny as it should be and it's certainly not as sexy as it needed to be. Even with cameos by uberhotties Heidi Klum, Bridget Hall, and Gisele Bundchen, they're not enough; the movie should've been overflowing with appearances by the beauties that walk among us.
Granted, the first half is modestly entertaining. But by the third act enough ludicrous changes — far too many to document here — are inflicted that anybody familiar with the book should be sorely disappointed.
Even the ending has been altered almost beyond recognition. Sure, there was the whole thing with the cell phone and the clothes, as previously mentioned. But it gets worse. The final frames entail more thoroughly unnecessary changes that once again, inexplicably, show the devil in a favorable light.
The Devil Wears Prada was a tale Weisberger concocted, an extreme embellishment of her days working as an assistant to Anna Wintour at Vogue. Perhaps Weisberger should next write a straight non-fiction account about how she wrote a book and Hollywood botched up the movie. She could call it The Devil Wears
In the immortal, dismissive words of Ms. Priestly, "That's all."
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.