- The Devil Wears Prada (2006) movie review: In a subordinate role inspired by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, Meryl Streep is a glistening emerald embroidered in David Frankel’s otherwise scrappy would-be feminist drama. As an uppity, queeny art director, Stanley Tucci is another standout.
- The Devil Wears Prada was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Actress (Meryl Streep) and Best Costume Design (Pat Field).
The Devil Wears Prada movie review: Meryl Streep & Stanley Tucci are the only two (excellent) reasons to check out phony fashion world drama
There are two excellent reasons to watch director David Frankel and screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna’s movie transfer of Lauren Weisberger’s 2003 semiautobiographical novel The Devil Wears Prada, the story of a young journalist wannabe who lands a job as an assistant to a world-class bitch fashionista.
The two reasons – neither of which has much screen time – are Meryl Streep, as the soft-spoken but viper-tongued queen bee of the fashion world (inspired by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour), and Stanley Tucci, as the queen bee’s snooty but kind-hearted lady-in-waiting who dreams of one day becoming a fashion queen himself.
Apart from the stellar work of these two performers, The Devil Wears Prada offers tired clichés, unsubstantial acting, and a wardrobe that, however imaginative, would befit wedding cakes and circus tents but not people.
Considering the mess it later becomes, The Devil Wears Prada starts out surprisingly well.
After a fast-paced montage of female New Yorkers getting ready for work to the sounds of KT Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See,” we meet comely Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), an idealistic, ambitious young woman whose unaffected Midwestern manner is her greatest asset. In need of a fatter resumé (and some hard cash, one assumes), the college grad journalist becomes a personal assistant to Miranda Priestly, the all-powerful editor-in-chief of the prestigious fashion magazine Runway.
Sometime later, we’re introduced to Miranda herself (Meryl Streep), an imperial Medusa whose mordant wit matches her inexhaustible nastiness. The center of attention whenever she’s on-screen, Miranda uses her silky but poisonous tongue to lash out at her subordinates, all of whom cravenly do whatever the boss wants because she wields the power of professional life and death over the denizens of New York City’s fashion world.
If looks could kill, Andy – who dresses like a suburban Des Moines teenager – would have dropped dead moments after meeting her employer. And that wouldn’t have been such a bad thing, for The Devil Wears Prada would then have been forced to place its focus on its lone gripping character.
But instead of going for some hardcore psychological drama, the filmmakers – whether or not following Lauren Weisberger’s text – have opted for soap opera stuff: Cheesy office rivalries; caring but dejected boyfriend (Adrian Grenier); suffering young career woman, unable to balance professional life/personal life; suffering older career woman who discovers how lonely it all is for a female at the top.
Once these contrivances start raising their moldy heads, The Devil Wears Prada not only loses its pace but also its direction and any modicum of honesty it might have had otherwise.
And who could have guessed that Andy must eventually choose between her old idealistic self and her new blindly ambitious one?
Does she want to end up like Miranda – rich, powerful, man-less – or does she want to end up like a real journalist – broke and powerless, but with a man by her side?
Whiny, dishonest protagonist
In one key aspect, The Devil Wears Prada is hindered by its source material, as Weisberger’s novel is told through the eyes of the young journalist. For although director Frankel and screenwriter McKenna (numerous other hands also worked on the script) have humanized Miranda, their focus and sympathies clearly lie with Andy.
Thus, we are supposed to care for/identify with a whiny, subservient young woman whose motto is I Had No Choice – all the while making choices to move up the professional ladder no matter the cost to herself and to those around her. Andy’s eagerness to bend over backwards to do exactly what the Runway empress wants – she even finds an advance copy of a precious-as-kryptonite Harry Potter book – makes her only more despicable.
Worse yet, neither Frankel nor McKenna seem to make up their minds about the glitzy and glamorous world of high fashion: Are those people creating “art you can wear,” or are they arbitrary, vacuous, and downright tasteless tastemakers whose success is based not on their talent but on their ability to lick the right asses so they can ultimately sell themselves and their products to the clueless, brainless masses?
Anne Hathaway can’t transcend script shortcomings
Don’t expect any clarity from The Devil Wears Prada, whose makers believe that as long as their movie offers a smug happy ending, audiences won’t care they’ve been watching something made out of cast-off rags.
The biggest loser in all this wishy-washiness is Anne Hathaway, as the Ella Enchanted and The Princess Diaries actress is unable to convey her character’s poorly sketched inner angst. As a result, her initially charming heroine becomes tiresome rather quickly.
Not helping matters are the clothes Andy must wear to show the fashion-conscious gals at the office that she can look as awful as the worst of them. Audrey Hepburn might have been able to get away with walking around in outfits appropriate for an S&M dungeon session; but Hathaway, especially when seen next to Streep’s dazzling Miranda, looks woefully out of her element.
Focus on the wrong character
If David Frankel and Aline Brosh McKenna had placed their dramatic focus on Meryl Streep’s Runway bigwig, The Devil Wears Prada just might have become the inspirational tale it aims to be.
Miranda Priestly may be a commanding ogress at work and a deflated balloon at home, but at least she doesn’t pretend to be someone she isn’t in order to gain the sympathy of others. That’s something worth emulating.
Lastly, in case you’re looking for a scathing – and uproarious – take on the fashion world, check out instead Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French’s television series Absolutely Fabulous.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Director: David Frankel.
Screenplay: Aline Brosh McKenna.
From Lauren Weisberger’s novel.
Cast: Anne Hathaway. Meryl Streep. Stanley Tucci. Emily Blunt. Adrian Grenier. Daniel Sunjata. David Marshall Grant. James Naughton. Gisele Bündchen.
“The Devil Wears Prada Movie (2006) Review” endnotes
Meryl Streep awards
Among its awards season wins, The Devil Wears Prada earned Meryl Streep a Golden Globe for Best Actress – Comedy or Musical and the National Society of Film Critics’ Best Supporting Actress award (also for Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion).
Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep The Devil Wears Prada movie images: 20th Century Fox.
“The Devil Wears Prada Movie: Showstopper Streep in Pedestrian Drama” last updated in September 2021.