The Devil Wears Prada review by Mike Long

"Chick flick" is a term which gets thrown around a lot today. The typical definition refers to a movie which centers on a woman or a group of women and explores the unique issues/problems which hinder these women and how they must overcome them. (Also, the names "Sandra Bullock" and "Meg Ryan" have become synonymous with “chick flicks”.) But, is it possible for a movie to be about women and set in a woman’s world which isn’t a “chick flick”? The genre-bending The Devil Wears Prada may be the film which achieves this seemingly impossible feat.

Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) is a newly graduated young woman who has come to New York to pursue a career in journalism. The human resources department of a magazine conglomerate sends her for an interview at Runway magazine, the most popular fashion mag in the world. Unfortunately, Andy knows nothing about fashion. Andy quickly meets the formidable editor of Runway, Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). Due to the fact that Andy doesn’t look like the typical model wannabes who apply to be her assistant, Miranda decides to hire Andy, much to the chagrin of the other assistant, Emily (Emily Blunt). Despite the fact that Andy doesn’t quite grasp the Runway world, she is excited about the opportunity.

However, Andy soon learns that working for Miranda Priestly is no dream job. Miranda is a true perfectionist and only wants things to be done her way. She refers to Andy as “Emily” and is constantly making dozens of demands at once. If Andy isn’t out getting coffee (seemingly non-stop), she’s fetching clothing samples from a famous designer or doing something personal for Miranda. At first, Andy sees Miranda as evil, but she soon learns that Miranda only wants the best out of people. Thus, Andy begins to adapt, not only in her work ethic, but in her appearance. But, as her performance begins to improve, her private life, especially with her boyfriend, Nate (Adam Grenier), starts to suffer.

So, by this point you’re thinking, “What? Didn’t he say that this wasn’t a ‘chick flick‘? You’ve got a girl working for a bitchy boss at a fashion magazine and it’s not a ‘chick flick‘? Well, I suppose in some ways it is. Most of the main characters in the film are female, and the males here merely fills certain roles in the story. The movie certainly does focus on clothing and the importance of fashion. The Devil Wears Prada also makes many comments on the way in which women work together and the way in which they treat one another -- which often involves a great deal of back-stabbing.

Yet, along with all of that, there is a story that certainly falls outside of the typical “chick flick” mode. The movie puts a slightly new twist on the clichéd “underdog” story. Typically (especially in sports films), we have someone who is underqualified who must prove themselves in order to pursue their dreams. With Andy, we have a character who is overqualified to be an assistant who is constantly running errands, and who doesn’t have any particular aspirations to work in the world of fashion. But, as the story progresses, we learn that Andy is a true go-getter. As she desires to live up to Miranda’s very high expectations, Andy devotes herself to the job. She learns the proper way to do things and begins to dress the part as well. During Andy’s transformation, the audience begins to realize that Miranda isn’t necessarily evil, she’s simply a successful businesswoman who expects the best from everyone. Despite the fact that Miranda is seen as the queen of her particular industry, her boss is a man and the film implies that even she struggles to maintain her regal air in this cut-throat business.

Thus, there are parts of The Devil Wears Prada which are more accessible to a wide audience than the standard “chick flick”. Even if one knows nothing about (or cares nothing for) the fashion industry, many of us have had overbearing bosses who made outrageous demands, which makes the film more relatable. And even if we don’t agree with the fact that Andy would shirk her personal life to bust her ass for this ice queen, it’s hard to not admire her determination.

The overall presentation of The Devil Wears Prada places it outside of the “chick flick” realm, but the film’s plotting also moves it away from easy genre classification. If pressed, I would call the film a dramedy, but even that’s not accurate. The movie has some funny moments, and it certainly has some dramatic moments, but it never commits to either. One of the most interesting things about The Devil Wears Prada is the narrative structure. Simply put, outside of Andy’s job and social situation, there are no other dramatic twists, and I really admire this. So often movies and TV shows introduce unrealistic situations simply to heighten the drama. With this movie, we simply watch Andy evolve and grow at her job. There are no unnecessary villains or crises -- just the simple story of a fish out of water trying to prove herself. A minor plot twist arrives during the final act, but it’s nothing compared to what we’re used to seeing. Kudos to the makers of The Devil Wears Prada for understanding that an interesting premise and interesting characters can actually carry a movie.

If you were to ask me, “Hey, want to watch a movie about a woman trying to make it at a fashion magazine?”, my normal reaction would be “No”...probably followed by some profanity. But, The Devil Wears Prada is an enjoyable film which shrugs off any “chick flick” notions to be a well-rounded movie. Of course, the presence of the gorgeous Anne Hathaway and the talented Meryl Streep (who will probably be nominated for this role) don’t hurt the film. It’s still true that this movie isn’t for everyone, but for a movie with no explosions or car chases, it wasn’t bad.

The Devil Wears Prada struts onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film is coming to DVD in two separate releases, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer looks very good, as the image is sharp and clear. The image shows just a slight hint of grain and no defects from the source material. The picture is well-balanced, as it’s never too bright or too dark and the framing appears to be accurate. The colors look very good -- the movie has been shot in a very natural style, and the colors of the various clothes are allowed to stand out. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which offers clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good and show excellent speaker placement. The surround sound effects are limited to street scenes and musical cues, but they are noticeable.

The Devil Wears Prada DVD contains a limited number of extras, but they are interesting. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY, which features director David Frankel, producer Wendy Finerman, costume designer Patricia Field, writer Aline Brosh McKenna, editor Mark Livolsi, and director of photography Florian Ballhaus. This is a fact-filled, yet fairly standard commentary. The group gives us a lot of details about location, story, and actors, and will answers many questions which the viewer may have. But it’s all quite dry and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of chemistry between the speakers. “The Trip to the Big Screen” (12 minutes) features Frankel, Finerman, and McKenna talking about the stories trip through scripting to filming. The problem is that the source novel is mentioned many times, but we don’t get any details on what was changed from the book. “NYC and Fashion” (6 minutes) explores the importance of fashion and how it’s portrayed in the film, and the use of real New York City locations. In “Fashion Visionary Patricia Field” (9 minutes), Field talks about her life and career in fashion, and how shot got into being a costume designer. “Getting Valentino” (3 minutes) describes how the famous fashion designer found his way into the film. “Boss from Hell” (2 minutes) is a simply promo featurette. The DVD contains 15 DELETED SCENES which run about 22 minutes, and can be viewed with optional commentary with Frankel and Livolsi. Most of these are simply extended scenes and there are no revelations or new subplots here, but there are some very nice and funny moments. The extras are rounded out by a GAG REEL (5 minutes) and the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

8 out of 10 Jackasses

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