Vogue magazine is a survivor and, 100 years after it first began, it has lost none of its cachet as the force which sets the trends the world follows.
And like anybody, or anything, that has remained at the top, it has claimed victims along the way. It takes some doing to survive in an environment that sets itself above everyone else so it can set the style rules. It’s not an easy place to exist.
I know, because I once worked at Vogue Australia, and lived to tell the tale -“ just. On my final day, a magazine veteran friend shared the wisdom, Vogue staffers are born like that -“ you are one of them or you’re not.
So, while my stories about the antics of the Voguettes have entertained friends ever since, I approached The Devil Wears Prada with a show me attitude.
The movie is based on the book by Lauren Weisberger, who for nine torturous months was the assistant to Vogue America‘s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour. Weisberger had her revenge with a thinly veiled tome, which became the 2003 bestseller.
After seeing the movie, I can report my stories about malice-spitting co-workers fade compared to what Weisberger encountered, and this is played out hilariously in this eminently entertaining movie.
Directed by David Frankel, who cut his teeth on Sex In The City, it shows he learnt plenty from his TV days about how to keep a quick-witted tale about bitchy and ego-driven New York women fast and funny, while still offering some insight. The film gallops along, and the characters are well drawn as it follows Andy, a talented and aspiring writer, who becomes an assistant to acclaimed fashion bible editor, Miranda Priestley.
With lesser acting talents, The Devil Wears Prada could have been just another whinge fest about an underdog who was treated badly by her boss. Meryl Streep is superb in a brittle, waspish performance, which never becomes a caricature or loses a sense of humanity beneath the designer clothes. Streep, playing like an ice-toned, understated Cruella De Vil, keeps the icy tension so taut so that you hang onto her every word. Anne Hathaway, who was way out of her depth in Brokeback Mountain, is much more at home with this material. She makes Andy both bewildered and ambitious, maintaining her morality despite the stunningly ferocious way her co-workers treat her and each other.
Hathaway, however, has no luck against the scene-stealing by supporting actors Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci. Blunt as the caustic fellow assistant is brutally hilarious, while Tucci delivers a host of bitchy and stinging one-liners, but remains endearing. Their performances give a depth to the characters, showing that people in such an environment behave in such a manner not just to thrive, but also to survive.
Only Adrian Grenier and Simon Baker get lost in the mix as the two men Andy finds her heart torn between, possibly because these characters have the least to work with in a story peppered with such vivid characters and fireworks.
The Devil Wears Prada is more than just a chick flick or catty bitchfest. It presents what many of us already know -“ that the greatest stories in the media are often the ones going on behind the scenes as magazine pages are being created. The extraordinary characters and their bizarre behaviour are put into focus, and it is delicious fun to see them in full flight in all their colours -“ this season’s, of course!