Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Meryl Streep can do no wrong.

July 1, 2006

"The Devil Wears Prada," the must-see movie of the year for women and gay men, is finally here at long last. Me? I went to see it because it's a (small-scale) "event" movie and I've been hearing about it for months on end. I have no interest in fashion or the subject matter and the trailer did nothing for me. So I'm happy to report that "Prada" is one of the big out-of-nowhere surprises of the season, and I found it entertaining, witty and remarkably enjoyable, despite myself. It has problems-- for a movie with no plot, it runs a somewhat long two hours-- but most of them are excused by the goodwill generated by the rest of the film, and the performances in particular.

"Prada" stars Meryl Streep as high-powered editor of fashion magazine Runway (i.e.: vogue) Miranda Priestly (i.e.: Anna Wintour), and Anne Hathaway, as Miranda's new assistant Andrew, a small-town girl who knows nothing about fashion trying to survive her impossibly demanding bitch of a boss. The movie's basically a series of demands placed on Andrea and the interactions between the two. It's when the movie deviates into Andy's exploits with her boyfriend ("Entourage's" Vinny Chase, Adrian Grenier) and a seductive writer ("Something New's" Simon Baker) that our interest dwindles. And like every movie this summer, it goes on about 30 minutes too long.

But whenever Streep is onscreen, the movie's a blast. Miranda is a complete cunt, but unlike the book, she's actually given some dimension here. There's a scene late in the film where we see her humanity, and the way Streep plays Miranda throughout the entirety of the movie we sort of see why she's like this. No, there's no (as my friend described it) "Tim Burton-esque flashback of her horrible childhood," but we get the feeling that Miranda is this way because she needs to be, as if she has to to survive the business. Besides the usual Streep brilliance, she's also hilariously funny as the continuously calm, demanding boss, and fires off lines with relish, even getting laughs from her repeated "That's all." Showing comedic chops infused with an air of humanity, this will garner Streep's 14th Oscar nomination.

Anne Hathaway doesn't leave much of an impression on you from her work here, but she's not nearly as bland as reviews I've read have accused her to be. She's charming enough, cute enough and I can see her moving on to Julia Roberts territory as long as she keeps her quality of acting in the mid-range without exceeding the norm.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the two delicious supporting roles: Stanley Tucci as the acerbic, gay confidante to Miranda and Andy, and Emily Blunt ("My Summer of Love") as Andy's bitchy, British co-assistant to Miranda. Tucci gets easily the movie's best lines, and delivers them without ever becoming the typical flamboyant best friend caricature, and Blunt is wickedly funny, wringing laughs out of what may be the most unlikable character in the movie (Meryl's just too fabulous to hate TOO much).

"The Devil Wears Prada" can certainly be branded as a chick-flick-- there's a continuous streak of feminism-- but I won't be surprised if it crosses over to another portion of the audience who didn't envision liking it (e.g: me). I initially thought it would be a mildly successful, profitable women-targetting movie this summer-- I didn't think its appeal was very wide-- but when I arrived to the 3:00 show at the Lincoln Square 12 on Friday, it was clear this is going to be much bigger than I expected. Nearly every show until midnight was already sold out, and huge ticket-holder lines were already forming. This movie is going to be (relatively) huge.

If only for Streep's wonderful performance, though it offers much more, "The Devil Wears Prada" is certainly worth spending your money on, and may go down as the only movie this summer to EXCEED box office expectations.


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