The Devil Wears PradaYear: 2006
Director: David Frankel (Hope Springs, Marley & Me, Chainsaw Slaughterhouse XII)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci, Emily Blunt, The Mentalist
I submit that, despite its lack of CGI demons or Aramaic curses, this film gets closer to identifying the character of the devil than most of the others I’ve reviewed. Why? Because she’s easy on the eyes, soft-spoken, and very persuasive. If only she came across as having your best interests, not hers, in mind, she’d be a perfect representation of the Old Serpent.
The devil in question is Miranda Priestly, the head of a major fashion magazine called Runway (which is totally not Vogue). I absentmindedly asked my wife if she thought Miranda Priestly was related to Jason Priestly, to which she replied, “Well, they do have the same haircut,” outing the elephant in the den: why on earth would a sixty-year old female fashionista have that early-’90s skaterboy hairstyle? I mean, I’m no fashion expert, but all that thing needs is some sideburns and a leather jacket with popped collar and she could be “shredding it” on her “deck” in no time... In fact, I think the natural next step here would be to shave around the sides and back, but leave the top intact.
Anyway, this all just goes to prove that Meryl Streep is gorgeous no matter what Vanilla Ice-era phenomenon is thrown at her. Flank her with Stanley Tucci (who should be in every movie, ever) as the eventually-empathetic layout designer and Emily Blunt as the vicious former assistant to the Devil, who hates anyone less fashionable than herself and who would later reprise this role in 2011’s The Muppets (working for Miss Piggy, which is weird, as Blunt also played Ruthie “Pig Face” Draper in Dan In Real Life, which is probably a better movie than this one, despite Dane Cook’s attempts to make it into a Dane Cook movie). And you thought St. Paul wrote long sentences.
Now enter Andy Sachs, a plucky, young aspiring journalist whose last hope at working for a NY magazine is this job opening (that millions of girls would apparently kill for, but not really) as Miranda Priestly’s new assistant. Andy is played by Anne Hathaway, who cut her teeth in another plain-to-glamorous transformation movie as an awkward adolescent in some Disney princess-flick with an aged Mary Poppins (and who will someday be forced to answer for ruining Cat Woman for a generation).
Through a twist of plot-contrivance, Andy gets the job, struggles greatly for a time, and then slowly finds her sea legs, while (gasp!) becoming more like the people she works with! We know this is happening because she starts dressing more like a prostitute and because her trollish boyfriend, who is always cooking and/or moping, starts cooking less and moping more. That and she answers the phone a lot when her boss calls. Upon first laying eyes on Andy, Tucci’s character asks, “Who is that sad little person? Are we doing a before-and-after piece I don’t know about?” Answer: yes. Before and after the Devil gets her hooks into poor Andy.
The “Dragon Lady”
So what makes Miranda such an accurate Devil? It’s not that she is curt and demanding with her employees, but that she enjoys turning friends against each other and manipulating people into betrayal. Perhaps even more than that, it’s that she wants to turn everyone else into her miserable,
And like the Devil, Miranda works slowly and methodically, not caring about instant change. She’ll happily spend years molding Andy into her own image, but in just a matter of months, we see her young assistant already conforming to Miranda’s wishes, even failing the fairly obvious, “Do I answer the Devil’s phone call or tend to the last hanging thread of my closest personal relationship?” test.
Andy, for her part, deals with all of this the way most of us deal with the relentless work of the Enemy in our lives: she justifies herself. A lot. She’s just trying to stick it out for a year, she tells herself. She just can’t let Miranda “get to her.” But when you dance with the Devil, the Devil don't change—the Devil changes you. Before long, her boyfriend has stopped moping long enough to whine that, “You used to make fun of the Runway girls. Now you’re one of them.”
As they are wont to do, Andy’s self-justifications grow quickly from, “Same Andy, better clothes” to throwing up three lame, half-hearted objections, followed by a defeated, “I’m out of excuses,” followed in turn by sleeping with the creepiest looking dude in the history of film, despite having a committed boyfriend.
At the heart of all this is, of course, the believing of lies. That’s the Devil’s whole gig. Mopey accurately calls it, when he declares, “Looks like somebody’s been drinking the Kool-Aid.” We, the viewers, see it when Anne Hatheway says, with a straight face, “I’m not skinny.” What?! Everybody’s skinny in this movie! Everyone! Even the perpetually-chubby Harry Crane from Mad Men is skinny here. But once we start letting ourselves believe little lies, it’s not long before we believe the big ones. In the world of Andy Sachs, deliverance comes in the form of quitting her job and getting back to who she originally wanted to be (i.e. a reporter for a NY newspaper that hasn’t existed in a century). When dealing with the lies of the actual devil, deliverance lies not in ourselves and our self-justification and self-affirmation, but in denying ourselves and being justified by Jesus Christ.
- The first appearance of the creepy (and less than helpful) twins. Come play with us, Andy. Forever and ever...
- The first glimpse of Miranda sans makeup. But, after a second, you again realize that Meryl Streep is always beautiful (except when she’s doing that Margaret Thatcher voice, which gives me all kinds of the willies).
- “The person whose calls you always take—that’s the relationship you’re in.” BTW, Andy, for crying out loud: change your ringtone! Seriously, what person (under 70) leaves the annoying Nokia jingle that comes default on their phone? I can’t imagine they paid for product placement here, seeing as how the phone essentially destroys the protagonist’s life, relationships, and character.
- “By all means move at a glacial pace. You know how that thrills me.”
- “That's all.”