Bright Lights Film Journal

The Devil Wears Product: Anne Hathaway Almost Loses Her Cherry to the Big Apple in The Devil Wears Prada

“You’re making fashion history” — not!

Is it possible to have a size 4 ass without a size 4 soul? Nuh-uh, says Hollywood, which knows a lot about both, in the middle-of-the-road, have it both ways, “I know it’s wrong but I can’t stop looking” chick-flick The Devil Wears Prada, based on Lauren Weisberger’s roman à clef of the same name, a book-length attack on Vogue editor Anna Wintour and all her works.

The Devil Wears Prada is ostensibly the story of sweet little Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), who’s come to New York from the Midwest to do serious work as a journalist but somehow blunders into a job as second assistant to Miranda Priestly/Anna Wintour (Meryl Streep), editatrix of Runway/Vogue, simply the coolest and haughtiest fashion magazine in town.

Andy, shocked, absolutely shocked to learn that in New York people have egos and that in the fashion industry you get judged by your appearance, staggers under the load of unending crap from both Miranda and bitchette first assistant Emily (Emily Blunt).1 What’s an honest girl from the Midwest with a good mind and solid journalistic skills supposed to do? “Get hot,” murmured the 13-year-old cutie seated behind me.

And, of course, get hot she does. Beneath that shapeless, ill-fitting cerulean2 knockoff beats the bod of a champion. Andy stops eating bread and in two shakes of a lamb’s tail her size 6 ass shrinks to a 4!3 Who knew it was so easy?

First the butt, then the wardrobe. Lieutenant Swish, aka Nigel (Stanley Tucci),4 takes her under his Guccied wing and introduces her to “the Vault,” containing about $75 million in screamin’ high fashion, all hers for the takin’. In another two shakes of a lamb’s tail, our little Andy is hotter than hot, and movin’ away from her oh-so-middle-class friends. (OK, I’m going to stop losing my “g’s” right now.) Running an errand for Miranda, she meets more than hunky and more than wired writer about town Christian Thompson (Simon Baker). Hey, so this is how it works! It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and how you look!

Our little Andy is losing it, fast, but what really puts her moral hymen in danger is a trip to Paris, where, naturally, she hooks up with Christian for a night of hot, hot grown-up sex. No more puppy love on a futon! This is passion at the Ritz, with room service!

In the morning, Christian congratulates her on the way she’s played the game, using Miranda for all she’s worth, and positioning herself to step up now that Miranda’s in line to lose her job. At this point, the film could go all New York on our ass. Andy could look Christian in the eye, and after a night of soul-shaking sex with the dude tell him to go to hell because he’s fucking with her career. Hey, New York is full of good fucks, and even some great ones. But there’s only one Vogue.

But of course Andy doesn’t do that. She goes all virtuous on our ass, rushing out to “save” Miranda, who, happy, happy ending, doesn’t need to be saved. But Andy’s learned her lesson anyway. No more high life for her! She takes all the fabulous freebies she picked up on the Paris trip and dumps them on the sublimely unworthy Emily, and even seeks out her kitchen boy boyfriend from her futon days to make up. And it’s all good, because Nate (Adrian Grenier) has just gotten this really cool job in Boston as a chef!5 So Andy can get this really cool job as a real journalist writing about the homeless!6 Plus, Miranda even gave her a fabulous job recommendation! Wow, a bitch with a heart of gold!

Yes, you have seen this plot before, but the plot of The Devil Wears Prada is pretty much beside the point. The crowd of teen-age fashionnettes I saw the film with were all about the clothes,7 though, speaking as a guy, it was a bit of a ripoff that the only time we got to see actual models in frilly underwear was at the very beginning of the flick. What was up with that?

Afterwords

I’ve read that Anna Wintour once served her guests French fries cooked in horse lard that she rendered herself, using a pony that belonged to a bunch of blind Vietnamese orphans. It’s probably true, but I’ll bet Anna feels bad about it, and even if she doesn’t I’m not sure she deserves all the piss she’s taking these days.8 It must hurt, just a little, to be surrounded by reminders that your jerk assistant9 is making millions off a two-bit book that caricatures your work ethic and sense of style as something less than desirable.

From the snippets I’ve read of The Devil Wears Prada in bookstores (not necessarily a fair test, I admit), Lauren comes off as dumber, meaner, and, in all probability, fatter than her boss.

  1. Emily is another in a long line of obnoxious Brit journalists in American popular culture, preceded by “Opal” (Geraldine Chaplin) in Nashville and Peter Fallow in The Bonfire of the Vanities (the book, not the movie — we were, mercifully, spared Bruce Willis’ English accent). Well, they are annoying! []
  2. Andy’s “cerulean” sweater, which she wears to her job interview, serves as the basis for an extended riff on how fashion shapes all our lives, whether we will it or no, from Miranda, which David “Yes, I am a media whore” Denby describes as “brilliant” in his New Yorker review. But the fact that we end up wearing aubergine rather than purple isn’t quite as important as the picture would have us believe. []
  3. Naturally, Hathaway looks gorgeous all through the flick. I seriously doubt if she bothered to chub up to a 6 for the early scenes. []
  4. We Americans seem to have a longing for a bitchy fairy who will make us look in a mirror, turn us into something fabulous, and then get the fuck out of our lives. []
  5. Somehow, I’m guessing he won’t be doing salads at TGI Fridays. []
  6. Or maybe it’s illegal immigrants. Anyway, somebody helpless and pathetic — the sort of person that we don’t see in this picture. []
  7. I didn’t stand out quite as badly as the dude who showed up in cowboy boots and hat, sporting shades and a Tom Sellack moustache. He laughed through the whole damn picture. So what was he, a former Vogue intern? []
  8. Anna was previously caricatured, not too vigorously, by Candace Bergman in Sex and the City,where we were encouraged to feel sorry for her because she was, well, old. (So old she had to settle for Wallace Shawn! Ouch!) And Bebe Neuwirth, sporting Anna’s signature Louise Brooks do, played an editor from Hell (is there any other kind?) in How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, a film so bad that even Roger Ebert gave it a bitchy review. []
  9. From the snippets I’ve read of The Devil Wears Prada in bookstores (not necessarily a fair test, I admit), Lauren comes off as dumber, meaner, and, in all probability, fatter than her boss. []