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Review: The Devil Wears Prada

I hadn't seen the inside of a regular movie theatre in months - covering film events and festivals leaves little time for big budget fare.

But I love going to the movies, and since Tuesday was my birthday my sister decided to treat me to a giant tub of popcorn and a show where there are actually previews.

I was tempted by Matt's reviews to see Superman or Pirates of the Caribbean; but I ultimately decided to check out (on the recommendation of coworkers), The Devil Wears Prada. Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci, how could I refuse?

In case you don't know the plot, the film is based on the book by Lauren Weisberger (which was, in turn, based on her time as indentured servant to publishing honcho Anna Wintour).

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Protagonist Andy (Anne Hathaway) is a go-getter new grad who decides to slum it at a fashion rag to bust into journalism, and quickly discovers that 'personal assistant' to Miranda Priestly (Streep) involves no writing and a lot of chasing the impossible. Aside from the hard and thankless work, Andy also has to reinvent herself as a skinny fashionista, with help from old-hand Nigel (Tucci), to fit in.

Her personal life quickly begins to suffer as she spends all hours at Miranda's beck and call, and soon her cool, smart friends hardly know her and her chef boyfriend (Entourage hottie Adrian Grenier) decides to take his late-night grilled cheeses elsewhere.

No, this isn't a rom-com, it's actually a coming of age story that focuses on the working relationships between women. The men take a backseat, adding a human-interest factor but not driving the plot. Which is great to see, because it means production companies are willing to put money into stories about working women who aren't prostitutes and whose major dilemma is not eternal singledom. It's a shame it wasn't better executed, really.

Streep is great, of course. Though part of me wonders what her agent is doing (why was she in Prime?), she has a gift for comedy and gives the 'dragon-lady' depth that Wintour probably doesn't even have.

Tucci, another talent bigger than the script, is surprising as Nigel, slightly effete and entirely wise, and like Streep adds unexpected depth and nuance to fairly straightforward 'mentor' role.

Newbie Emily Blunt, as the slightly superior assistant, is the only other actor who goes above and beyond the call of duty, giving the 'nasty coworker' one-liners more than venom.

Everyone else is fine and cute. Director David Frankel doesn't appear to have asked much of his actors, which is why Streep, Tucci and Blunt stand out - they can do the work on their own. It's directed and shot like a TV show with a few expensive crane shots thrown in, which is fine, but it lacks the larger character arc in the lead role necessary to drive the plot. Instead, it's a lot of fine scenes with great actors linked by an indifferent main story.

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Hathaway (who I find very likeable and have enjoyed in other flicks) is sweet but flat as Andy - she looks great modeling the designer outfits Nigel creates for her, but every element of her character is underplayed. She's uniformly good-natured in her delivery, regardless of what Streep, Tucci and Blunt throw at her, and when she's meant to be upset, angry, triumphant, naughty, and so forth, the conviction just isn't there. She never seems as shaken as she needs to be to sell her motivation for the actions she takes.

Also, Hathaway doesn't really have much chemistry with Grenier or Simon Baker, who plays the dashing and more worldly 'other man', though they all look very attractive together. Again, I think it's Frankel dropping the ball - relying too much on prettiness and not spending any time developing character relationships.

Overall, I enjoyed the film, and it's definitely worth it to see Streep and Tucci play, but I recommend waiting until it's out on DVD or TMN - given the way it's shot and directed, it will probably play better on the small screen.

Images from www.devilwearspradamovie.com


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