Loosely adapted from the 2003 novel of the same name by Lauren Weisberger, The Devil Wears Prada was a box office smash taking over $325m from a budget of $35m. The Devil Wears Prada follows Andrea Sachs (Anne Hathaway), a college graduate and aspiring journalist who gets a job as a co-assistant to Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), the editor of the World’s most famous fashion magazine ˜Runway.’ Initially sceptical about the importance of her job, she slowly gets sucked into the fashion world helped along by the Art Director Nigel (Stanley Tucci) and hindered by her fellow co-assistant Emily (Emily Blunt) she sees her relationship and personal life suffer as she dedicates more and more time trying to prove herself to a seemingly uncaring boss.
During production, many high-profile designers refused to participate in person in the The Devil Wears Prada for fear of displeasing Anna Wintour (editor of U.S. ˜Vogue’ magazine) on whom the character of Miranda is alleged to be based. They did however contribute clothing, which helped to give The Devil Wears Prada one of the highest-valued costume departments of all time.
The Devil Wears Prada was one of the pleasant surprises of 2006. Judging from early trailers and advertising, it would be another in a long-line of plastic romantic comedies, with little substance and no bite. What it turned out to be was a ruthlessly careerist view on life in the big city and the lure of power and success. Wall Street in high heels if you will.
Anne Hathaway is excellent as the at-first frumpy Andrea, who sits at odds with the fashion world. She gets her mentor in the delightful Tucci and were nemesis in the ice cold Blunt, carving a niche for herself as super-bitch. Yet the soul of The Devil Wears Prada lays on the broad acting shoulders of Meryl Streep and if ever you needed further proof of her range and quality just see her as the titan of the fashion world.
Streep plays Miranda Priestly as a calculating, intelligent and utterly evil boss from Hell. She could have easily chewed scenery in the role and gone over-the-top, but it is the downplaying of all emotion that is the key to her success. Her slow, considered monotone as she tears away the defences of frightened assistants and sub-editors alike is irresistible. Yet there are brief moments when the mask of confidence slips and Streep conveys so much humanity that it’s impossible not to be completely drawn in, especially as she quickly follows these moments with more outrageous requests and disapproving ˜pursing of the lips.’
While clearly a morality tale about the pitfalls of success, The Devil Wears Prada has a certain realistic comedy to it, which stops it becoming an drama and makes it accessible not only to fashion-lovers, but everyone. We can all see a little bit of ourselves in the increasingly praise-hungry Andrea and her slow and rather focused descent into the darker side of success.