Directed by David Frankel (Miami Rhapsody & Sex in the City) and featuring the talents of Meryl Streep (Sophies Choice & Death Becomes Her) and Anne Hathaway (Princess Diaries & Brokeback Mountain) this was always going to be a movie that had reviewers clamouring at the screening room door. However, if you’re expecting biting fashion satire, or a plot along the lines of Bedazzled, think again.
Hathaway plays Andy Sachs, a graduate desperate to get into journalism who lands a job at Runway magazine as PA to fashion industry dragon Miranda Priestly (Streep). If she can last a year, Andy can get any job in publishing, but Miranda leaves bodies scattered in her wake. As Andy fights to survive, she realises she must adapt or fail.
To the horror of her friends, she begins to turn into the women she used to laugh at. Then comes the crunch, she can go to Paris with Miranda and meet the movers and shakers, but to do so she must betray a colleague. Andy goes, but sees behind the faade into Mirandas life. A taxi ride puts everything into perspective, and Andy realises she is on the road to becoming her boss. Should she sell her soul to be the envy of millions or walk away while she can and settle for obscurity and happiness?
Streep owns the film as ber-bitch Priestly. Her comic timing allows her to fire off put downs and sideswipes that, with a soft voice, occasional arched eyebrow and pursed lips manage to also be slightly chilling. She also provides the best piece of acting when, alone in the hotel, dejected and without make-up as another divorce looms, Andy is shown the reality of Miranda’s life. Hathaway herself gives a great performance as nave Andy. She plays the transition from frump to fashionista perfectly, and shows the slow transition into an embryonic Miranda with such sweetness that you almost don’t notice it until the final denouement.
Of the supporting cast Stanley Tucci (Robots & Shall We Dance) and Emily Blunt (My Summer of Love) really stand out. Tucci plays Nigel, a Runway stalwart who, after a catty introduction, fulfils the fairy godmother role taking Andy under his wing and transforming her into a traffic-stopping beauty. Blunt plays Emily, Andy’s colleague, who initially views the new arrival as an object of ridicule, but as time goes on they warm to each other and establish a tentative friendship. The scene where she finds out that Andy has stolen her dream and is going to Paris is an absolute hoot to watch. Both Tucci and Blunt give sterling performances throughout, and also have some of the best lines. No film involving fashion would be complete without cameos, and they come from Valentino, Heidi Klum and Gisele Bndchen.
Whilst fashion provides the opportunity for some great outfits and one-liners, this could have been set in any industry. We all recognise in Priestly the person who has climbed the career ladder by trampling those in their path. We also know people who would kill for Andy’s opportunity and who would simply not understand what the problem was. However, this one of the things that makes the film so enjoyable. You have great actors, a good story, some hysterically funny writing and the fact that, by laughing at fashion, we are laughing at our own lifestyles. It’s the only area that we all buy into, whether we realise it or not, exactly like Andy at the start of the film.