Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cinema 2006: Satan made me wear Jimmy Chu

“The Devil Wears Prada” from 2006 entertains well enough, but leaves you thinking the book must be better. That book of course is Lauren Weisberger’s roman à clef about the fashion magazine industry.

David Frankel’s movie version is strangely devoid of chemistry. Andrea (Anne Hathaway) or Andy, as she is called, lands a job working for the legendary fashion publisher Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). Andy survives a rocky start with help from a compassionate associate at work, Nigel (Stanley Tucci), who eventually transforms her from go-fer to geisha.

Despite the workplace abuse, Andy develops loyalty to her dragon lady boss, whose personal life is in crisis – although it is not clear what distresses Priestly more: her problems or reading about her problems on Page 6.

By film’s end, Priestly has brought Andy to Paris on business to teach her the dog eat dog nature of the fashion industry, a tough lesson for a sweet Midwestern kid. Despite being at Priestly’s beck and call at all hours, Andy finds time to have a fling – not even with an exotic Frenchman – just a New York writer with lousy pick-up lines (Simon Baker). That wine-fueled tryst works in the narrative because it shows us another stage in Andy’s evolution. She began as the “fat girl” from Ohio, hired by Priestly on a whim and a dare, and later morphed into a stylish size four with guidance from Nigel and by dint of her own ambition. Now flush with her own success in Priestly’s view, the only opinion that matters, Andy indulges in a traditional workplace perk of the powerful – in the politically incorrect, but hardly defunct, recent masculine paradigm: sexual conquest.

Ultimately our protagonist embraces the core values of loyalty and friendship. In the process she rejects the backstabbing career path she is on, nimbly landing on her feet by landing a new job in “real” journalism.

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