A million Andy Sachs turn up in Manhattan eager, modern, bright young women who reckon their successes in college will translate seamlessly into a dream job. This particular Andy (Anne Hathaway) penned an award-winning series on janitors' unions for the college rag, and now hopes for a news desk. Instead, she finds herself running errands for the terribly demanding and mercurial Miranda Priestly, bitch-goddess editor of the fashion mag Runway. Still, Andy wagers that a year with this designer-draped devil will provide a springboard to a journalism career and this being an ostensibly chick-friendly Hollywood confection, it undoubtedly will.
The Devil Wears Prada is David Frankel's straightforward adaptation of Lauren Weisberger's comic novel, which detailed the soul-suck that was toiling in the fashion industry. On that frame, the film drapes a couple of basic garments: the fish-out-of-water gambit ("fat" Andy knows zip about the high-fashion world) paired with the zillionth re-telling of bookish-girl makeover.
The novel's thrill was the knowledge that it was a thinly disguised account of the author's sojourn working for Anna "Nuclear" Wintour, the renowned editrix of Vogue. Two iterations away from the source, and the naughtiness of the kiss-and-tell has been muted. Andy's woes in the world of "clackers" beautiful wraithlike creatures who clatter across the marble floors in stilettos and sigh wistfully that they are "just one stomach flu away from my goal weight" are mildly amusing, if familiar.
For the most part, the laughs are quip-based, though the film's greatest source of entertainment is Meryl Streep, who portrays Miranda, the best-dressed boss from hell. Streep effortlessly hits all her comedic marks, often with only the slightest turn of her fine-boned head. Her brutal, but well-modulated dissection of poor Andy's "not blue, not turquoise but cerulean" pullover sweater will delight you, even as you tremble slightly.
Also on the money is Emily Blunt, an English actress who plays Miranda's primary assistant; her cutting barbs at Andy's expense barely disguise her all-consuming anxiety.
Between Streep and Blunt, Hathaway has little chance, delivering an adequate but uninspired performance.
Fashion is such an easy mark that I'd hoped for a sharper satire. Instead, Devil blithely glosses over various available critiques with all the depth of Cosmo Girl. And while fashion magazines let the images speak for themselves, in Devil every bit of character development is explained, making the last third of the film a trifle tedious. In the end, Devil splits the difference, having Andy both wise up and pretty up, thereby trotting out another baffling maxim for today's gals: Be true to yourself and to the deluded, mean-spirited taste-makers on Seventh Avenue.
Rating: 2.5 projectors