J.D. Lafrance
The Devil Wears Prada DVD Review

The Devil Wears Prada

December 12, 2006

Director: David Frankel,
Starring: : Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Adrian Grenier, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, Emily Blunt, Tracie Thoms, David Marshall Grant, James Naughton, Daniel Sunjata, Rebecca Mader,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

The fashion world has rarely been depicted accurately on film. Case in point: Robert Altman’s well-intentioned mess Pret-a-Porter (1994). The problem most adaptations have is accurately depicting such a specific world with its own lingo and rules. Reality television shows like America’s Next Top Model, 8th and Ocean and Project Runway have attempted to offer revealing glimpses into how the fashion world works which makes any subsequent film’s job that much harder because everyone now feels like they know how it works. Along comes The Devil Wears Prada (2006), the big screen adaptation of Lauren Weisberger’s 2003 novel of the same name about a young lady named Andrea Sachs (Hathaway), a recent university graduate who dreams of becoming a journalist and ends up becoming the co-assistant to Miranda Priestly (Streep), the powerful editor of Runway magazine, with no experience or knowledge of the fashion world.

Only in a film like this would someone like Anne Hathaway be considered frumpy and without style. She’s beautiful and very engaging so it’s a bit of a stretch that she is supposed to be an awkward “ugly duckling.” The television show Ugly Betty, which, in many ways, is the small screen version of this movie, is much more successful at presenting a protagonist who is clearly a stranger in a strange land in regards to the fashion world. Initially, the majority of the film’s laughs originate from Andrea’s lack of fashion knowledge and the myriad of menial tasks Miranda has her do (from getting her coffee to walking a dog to giving her information on a moment’s notice), sending her all over New York City.

Andrea is forced to suck it up and takes it figuring that if she sticks it out for a year she can move on to a more serious journalism gig. Her problem is a lack of passion and respect for her job. Once she realizes this and changes not just her attitude but the way she dresses, only then does she become more successful. Andrea has to look the part as much as know what to do and say and that’s the key to her turning things around. Her job is all about self-sacrifice. To be efficient and successful, her personal life has to take a backseat, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend (Grenier). The personal conflict that must be resolved by film’s end is whether she is willing to sacrifice her personal life in order to get ahead in her professional life.

Miranda is a no-nonsense boss who is very demanding and does not suffer fools gladly. Her character was reportedly based on Anna Wintour, the powerful editor of Vogue magazine (Weisberger once worked as her assistant). Meryl Streep clearly relishes the role as evident with the flashes of her shark-like grin and the withering glare she gives Andrea (or anyone for that matter) on a regular basis. Streep makes an interesting choice of playing Miranda in an understated way instead of the stereotypical shouting, scenery-chewing boss from hell (i.e. Kevin Spacey in Swimming with Sharks). She has the calm, cool confidence of a professional businesswoman who knows exactly what she wants. Streep invests her character with glimmers of humanity so that she isn’t merely an ice queen. For example, there is a scene where she tells Andrea that about her plans to get a divorce. Miranda maintains her controlled exterior but you can see her pain in the hurt expression in Streep’s expressive eyes.

The Devil Wears Prada presents the world of fashion magazine publishing as cutthroat and very demanding. The attention to the details of this world are perfect, thanks in large part to director David Frankel and costume designer Patricia Field, both of whom worked on the equally fashion conscious television show, Sex and the City. People are fascinated by this world (as evident from the commercial success of this movie and the strong ratings of Ugly Betty) with its exotic outfits and impossibly beautiful models. It’s a fantasy world that most of us will never be a part of except to live vicariously through in the pages of Vogue, Cosmopolitan and, of course, this movie.

Special Features:

There is an audio commentary by director David Frankel, producer Wendy Finerman, costume designer Patricia Field, screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, editor Mark Livolsi and director of photography Florian Ballhaus. Frankel tends to moderate and dominate this track but everyone gets a chance to talk about their contributions to the film. They talk about the casting choices and mention that they liked Emily Blunt’s audition so much that her character was changed from American to British. Field provides some of the most interesting comments as she points out what designer clothing the characters are wearing and why. This track turns out to be quite an informative and chatty one thanks to the sheer number of commentators.

“The Trip to the Big Screen” examines how they adapted this best-selling novel into a film. The challenge was capturing the tone and it took several screenwriters to get it right. Once they got the right writer, they completely restructured the script and made it more relatable.

“NYC and Fashion” takes a look at the role fashion plays in the film. The filmmakers wanted to treat that world with respect while gently making fun of it as well. They talk about Andrea’s transformation from the-girl-next-door to a stylish professional. This featurette also examines how New York City is almost like another character in the movie.

“Fashion Visionary Patricia Field” focuses on the costume designer and looks at how she got into the fashion world. She brought years of experience to the project thanks her intimate knowledge of how the business worked. She even has her own shop that she developed gradually over the years into the success that is today.

“Getting Valentino” takes a look at how the filmmakers got the famous fashion designer to make a cameo appearance in the film. He happened to be in New York City doing the shoot and one of the producers used their connections to get him. He speaks very humbly about his modest cameo.

“Boss from Hell” is a standard promotional featurette with a brief synopsis of the film that segues into people on the street recalling their own boss from hell experiences. One guy even had to break up with his boss’ girlfriend for him!

Also included are 15 deleted scenes with optional commentary by Frankel and Livolsi. Surprisingly, Frankel has never seen this footage before as he did not sit in on the editing process leaving Livolsi to explain why this stuff was cut. Footage from early on in the film was cut to give Miranda more screen time.

“Gag Reel” is the usual collection of blown lines and Anne Hathaway pratfalls. We also get to see Stanley Tucci improvising all over the place and general goofing around on the set.

Finally, there are two trailers and two T.V. spots.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 80%



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