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The Devil Wears Prada
By Brandon Judell
Golda Meir once noted, "I hate fashion. I've always hated it. Fashion is an imposition, a rein on freedom."
Thankfully, Golda never voiced this opinion in front of Miranda Priestly, the editor-in-chief of the magazine "Runway." If the feisty world leader had, she might have become involved in the very first war that Israel lost.
Miranda Priestley, as blazingly portrayed by Meryl Streep, is the divine despot of international fashion. She decides what belts are in, what fabrics are de rigueur, and where hems should end. And if she decides that the trendy should be hued in Golden Rod, Crimson, or Navajo White, they will be. Then a few years later, those very shades will wind up on gauche designer rip-offs at T.J.Maxx and in sales bins at your local mall. A teal Spandex halter top, anyone?
Streep, without a doubt, gives here one of the grand comic performances of the year. With her expertly coifed locks bleached white, and her thin-again body attired in garb to die for, her Miranda struts across the screen like Queen Elizabeth I on speed.
On entering her office (her domain) each day, this classy princess of darkness doffs her pedigreed coats and pocketbooks on various desks, while barking out orders for coffee, steaks, Calvin Klein skirts, the yet unpublished Harry Potter manuscript, dinners with her spouse, and interviews with designers, while tearing apart her underlings' last shreds of self-assurance with a word, a stare, or a sneer.
This surprise hit of the summer is unexpectedly only Streep's third picture to gross over $100 million within the United States. The other two? "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" (2004) and "Kramer vs. Kramer" (1979).
Watching "The Devil Wore Prada" last night for a second time at a sparsely-attended-yet-chipper, late Sunday-night showing at the AMC on 68th Street, I could see why the film has hit such a chord of accord in the heart of cinema buffs.
Miranda is a distaff version of Donald Trump. There's the power, the arrogance, the success, plus the delicious-to-view unbridled narcissism of an unchecked megalomaniac. She's Hannibal Lector in Dolce & Gabbana.
Then there's the Liv-Tyler look-alike, Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), a feminist, proletarian college grad out for her first job. She doesn't know how to dress, she can't tell one blue from another, and she's content to stay at home at nights with her hunky beau (Adrian Grenier), a sou chef.
When Miranda hires Andy on a lark, this young woman, whom the audience is supposed to identify with and does, is slowly caught up in "shallow" world of appearances, as are we, until the very end of the picture where love of one's moral self and the good in mankind triumphs.
Imagine Stanley Donen's "Funny Face" (1957) without music and dance, and you have it.
In the end, "The Devil Wears Prada" is an angelic light comedy with enough wit and insight into its chosen world to bear numerous viewings. As Miranda demoniacally orders in the film's final moment, "Go!"
Director: David Frankel
Cast: Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci, Adrian Grenier, Tracie Thomas, Simon Baker
Copyright © Brandon Judell 2006
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