Cruella de Vogue

For an industry in decline, print journalism has done a fashion publicist’s job of staying in vogue, particularly among the more stylish career-seeking college grads. Never mind telling these BlackBerry-toting eager beavers that even an unpaid gig in the field is as rare as a winning lottery ticket. The Devil Wears Prada promises the glamorous life — celebrity cocktail parties, closets full of designer swag … and you don’t have to write anything!

Lauren Weisberger’s chick-lit fictionalization of her post-collegiate year running errands for Vogue‘s imperious boss spent months on the best-seller list and had its movie rights sold to Fox even before the manuscript was finished. An ironic measure of the film’s research into the fashion-mag scene is the fact that there’s almost no journalism in it. Director David Frankel — son of former New York Times executive editor Max Frankel, but also, more important, a veteran of numerous Sex and the City episodes — waits a full hour to show us an editorial meeting at Runway, Weisberger’s stand-in for Vogue. Then he waits another 20 minutes to give us a peek at the catwalk.

Otherwise, the movie’s main tweaks to Weisberger’s fluffy roman à clef are, appropriately, cosmetic. A blond graduate of Brown University in the book, young go-getter Andrea Sachs is now a lanky brunette from Northwestern when luck (mostly good) shoves her into the white-on-white corner office of Runway editor Miranda Priestly, here silver-haired and played by Meryl Streep as a cross between Cruella De Vil and the whip-cracking sadist essayed by Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl. Andrea (Anne Hathaway) — Andy to her unkempt beau (Adrian Grenier) and assorted pals, “Awn-DRAY-uh” to the boss — scrambles to learn the preferred temperature of Miranda’s lattes, the proper spelling of “Gabbana,” the quickest route to a copy of the unpublished Harry Potter tome for the editor’s evil twin daughters. Can Andy get Miranda out of Miami on a private jet — during a hurricane — and into Manhattan in time for the twins’ recital? And if not, can she keep the job?

Frankel’s caffeinated montage of coats, bags, boxes and faxes landing in successive plops on Andy’s desk gives us a sense of what the assistant is up against. Yet The Devil Wears Prada really lives to give its angel a high-class makeover. The film’s pop-fueled before-and-after spread takes the kid from cotton-blend sweater and plaid skirt to Jimmy Choo stilettos and a size-four Chanel, from cafeteria corn chowder to nibbled hors d’oeuvres. (Let’s hear it for starvation.) A $1,900 Marc Jacobs bag — this movie’s equivalent of a James Bond gadget — becomes just another of Andy’s happy-hour giveaways while she’s busy saving the fashion world by cell phone. This is the umpteenth Hollywood movie about a purportedly talented writer that never bothers to show us anything she wrote.

Categories: Movies