THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA directed by David Frankel, written by Aline Brosh McKenna, based on the novel by Lauren Weissberger, with Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci. 109 minutes. A 20th Century Fox release. Opens Friday (June 30). For venues and times, see Movies, page 115. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
On the British reality television show Project Catwalk, host Elizabeth Hurley imperiously tells departing failed contestants, "Fashion has no mercy."
Had director David Frankel kept this in mind when adapting Lauren Weisberger's bitchy tell-all (not so secretly based on the author's job as assistant to Vogue editor Anna "Nuclear" Wintour), the movie might have had the edge and anger that made the book a guilty pleasure page-turner.
Instead, Frankel, with the "help" of writer Aline Brosh McKenna, has made a typical job-from-hell film in which our plucky character eventually rises above it all after learning some valuable life lessons. Our girl-power winner, Andrea "Andy" Sachs, is played by The Princess Diaries' Anne Hathaway, who's entirely too likeable, too sympathetic and, not unlike the actress herself at fashion and entertainment events, never fails to look like a little girl playing dress-up in Mommy's admittedly fabulous clothes.
Not that that's entirely Hathaway's fault. McKenna and Frankel want us to root for her, so along with changing her character, they've omitted the scenes in the book that show her complete seduction by the dark side, ignoring her friends and family when they're in life-and-death situations. In the film she misses a party or makes a late arrival - oh, boo-hoo - and becomes a slave to fashion. Book Andy would be mortified by movie Andrea's pride in going from a size 6 to a mere 4. The fashion world isn't that kind. As her Runway Magazine colleague Nigel (Stanley Tucci, in a campy but endearing caricature) humorously opines, "Yesterday's 2 is the new zero."
The desire to play to a chick-lit-loving demographic might excuse these changes, but it's in the humanizing of Runway's monstrous editor, Miranda Priestly, that the writer and director make their greatest error, eschewing the story's true-life conclusion - wherein Weisberger gets mad and then gets even by writing a scathing memoir - in favour of some sort of proto-feminist moral showing that women can't have it all, but good on them for keeping their integrity.
True, Meryl Streep delivers the goods. When Miranda is in full bitch mode, Streep is unbeatable, ordering such insane requests as the unpublished manuscript for the new Harry Potter or a flight out of town during a hurricane, followed by the phenomenally dismissive singsong "That's all."
Yes, women will get a giggle from newbie Andy asking, "How do you spell Gabbana," cooing over Miss Sex And The City herself Patricia Field's fabulous wardrobe choices, enjoying Andy's romantic life (Simon Baker and Adrian Grenier - tough world) and remembering their own rivals when Andy faces off with Emily Blunt's brilliantly hateful Emily.
But minus the wardrobe, you could get all of that from any random Kate Hudson/Julia Roberts vehicle. That's something Lauren Weisberger, Anna Wintour and their screen counterparts would agree is the ultimate insult.