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Force Majeure

Little fights turn into big fights when couples use their emotions as weapons —Marty Mapes (review...)

An avalanche is a Force Majeure

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Since this movie is a pale imitation of a fairly generic novel a better title might be The Devil Wears JCPenney.

Fashion... Beep! Beep!

There were no redeeming personality traits about Miranda in the book
There were no redeeming personality traits about Miranda in the book

Lauren Weisberger’s novel tells an extremely simple story: plain-Jane girl graduates from Brown with dreams of writing for The New Yorker. Girl takes job as an office assistant at a major fashion magazine in hopes of paying her dues, earning a stellar recommendation in the process, and then moving her way over to the upscale magazine of her dreams.

Instead, girl gets screwed over by having to fetch coffee, this, that, and every other thing for a merciless, heartless editor named Miranda Priestly, the high priestess of Runway magazine, the fashion industry’s equivalent of the Holy Bible.

Sacrificing family and friends to get a jump start in the world, the girl gets a reality check when her best friend winds up in a hospital, her boyfriend puts their relationship on hiatus, and her boss pushes her buttons one time too many. In this case, the girl’s name is Andrea Sachs and she’s almost perfectly played by Anne Hathaway of The Princess Diaries.

It’s so simple, it would seem hard to screw up the screenplay, but that’s precisely what Aline Brosh McKenna has done. Her résumé is extremely unremarkable and this will do nothing to add shine. McKenna has wrought a screenplay that takes many liberties with its source material, some minor, some substantial, and every last one is extremely, positively unnecessary.

To wit, Andrea (call her Andy for short) is no longer a Connecticut-born Brown graduate; now she’s a Northwestern grad hailing from Ohio. Surely the only conceivable reason for such a petty change (but one that’s nonetheless annoying in its very lack of necessity) would be to make the character more appealing to audiences in the heartland and those red states that might be less sympathetic to anything related to “high fashion.”

City of Blinding Lights

Ah, if only that were the worst of McKenna’s sins. Which sin should be classified as the most unforgivable? That Andy’s long-time sweetheart, a guy named Alex who was a grade school teacher with a heart of gold in the book, is now a cookie-cutter support character named Nate (Adrian Grenier, Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding) who is attending cooking school?

Nah, even more egregious is what McKenna did to Lily, Andy’s bestest friend in the whole wide world who also happened to be a promiscuous alcoholic in the book. Her edgy lifestyle, which led to a serious car accident toward the story’s end, was a major catalyst for Andy to do that values check. Now she’s a trendy, upstanding babe (Tracie Thoms, Rent), a professional photographer with a flashy exhibit of her work on display in New York City. At least she’s still named Lily.

Yawn.

But it gets worse. There’s another miscalculation, a heinous one. But that’ll be saved for later. Since there’s no suspense or drama in this wardrobe malfunction of a movie, perhaps this review can try to compensate.

Granted, there are some zippy one-liners and Meryl Streep, as the indomitable Miranda, does give an excellent, well-reasoned speech about how Andy’s Casual Corner bargain bin sweater is really the end by-product of a decision Miranda made quite some time ago as the top level in the fashion food chain.

But the book has better laughs and puts poor Andy through far more embarrassing misadventures than this mess. Yes, Andy no longer has to sing for the security guard in order to get buzzed through the entrance of Elias-Clark. In this movie, Andy doesn’t even get to donate – on Runway’s dime – Starbucks to the homeless regulars she encounters on her jaunt from the coffee shop to the office.

Sympathy for the Devil

Who hasn’t worked for a tyrant who can’t lift a finger (or at least know of somebody who has)? Who has never been in a position where compliments were scarce but harsh criticism was a daily ritual? t least Miranda Priestly had talent and she could use that as a defense for being so snooty.

So therein lies the movie’s biggest sin: toward the end, Miranda is stunned by news her husband wants a divorce. There she is, in Paris, her guard down, and Andy takes pity.

No, no, my dear. Never, ever sympathize with the devil. That’s what made the book fun; there were no redeeming personality traits about Miranda other than her indisputable talent. She never, EVER let her guard down. And, in keeping with the fine tradition of big business comedies like 9 to 5 and Working Girl, Andy got the satisfaction of telling off Miranda in no uncertain terms then went back home, sold all the luxurious clothes she got for free while working at Runway, and lived off the proceeds for months.

In the movie, Andy merely flicks her cell phone in a fountain at the Place de la Concorde in Paris, returns home, and gives the clothes to Emily, one of her bitchy office colleagues.

Vogue

While the movie does serve as a snicker fest (not to be confused with Snickers, the candy bar, for you super models in the audience), it’s not as funny as it should be and it’s certainly not as sexy as it needed to be. Even with cameos by uberhotties Heidi Klum, Bridget Hall, and Gisele Bundchen, they’re not enough; the movie should’ve been overflowing with appearances by the beauties that walk among us.

Granted, the first half is modestly entertaining. But by the third act enough ludicrous changes — far too many to document here — are inflicted that anybody familiar with the book should be sorely disappointed.

Even the ending has been altered almost beyond recognition. Sure, there was the whole thing with the cell phone and the clothes, as previously mentioned. But it gets worse. The final frames entail more thoroughly unnecessary changes that once again, inexplicably, show the devil in a favorable light.

The Devil Wears Prada was a tale Weisberger concocted, an extreme embellishment of her days working as an assistant to Anna Wintour at Vogue. Perhaps Weisberger should next write a straight non-fiction account about how she wrote a book and Hollywood botched up the movie. She could call it The Devil Wears Sunscreen.

In the immortal, dismissive words of Ms. Priestly, “That’s all.”

  • KC: It's clear from his review that Matt Anderson is probably a frustrated screenwriter. There are several points that he missed in his review. They are, in no particular order:

    1) The novel, The Devil Wears Prada, was pretty mediocre. It had a great title and premise, and gave us a glimpse of the world of fashion publishing, but it was terribly flawed. Specifically, the author had an agenda and a point of view that was myopic to the point of obtuseness. Working for Anna Wintour is an opportunity, and a bright girl can keep her eyes open and learn quite a bit. The author clearly had an axe to grind. In this respect, the book was terribly one-dimensional. But whatever. It was a harmless bit of fluff.

    2) The screenplay had to be changed. Why? See above. In the novel, Andy does not have a clear character arc, nor is there anything redeeming about her journey. So yes, they were going to have to tweak that.

    3) In the film, Miranda is not humanized at all. Nor do they make her sympathetic. All they do is allow a glimpse of the woman behind the mask. She remains cruel throughout. I suspect what Matt is objecting to is that they humanized her a bit. Well, of course they did. Weisberger didn't in her book (again, that's how bad it was) so the film had to do something to show that there are other facets to this woman since the book clearly did not. Again, this is one of the book's own shortcomings that was tweaked and improved for the film. No matter how you cut it, the film was better than the book. Period. Which brings us to...

    4) The film's story and plot are as thin as tissue paper. So's the book. If you sneeze too hard, the entire thing will collapse in on itself. So while I'm no huge fan of the movie, I did see it for what it was, which brings us to...

    5) Matt Anderson seems to have missed the entire point of this film. It had nothing to do with the story or the book. It had everything to do with stunt casting and allowing one of the most acclaimed actresses of all time to take a comic turn. It was perfect casting. Streep carries the movie on her shoulders. This is what the movie is really about. Allowing Streep to create a larger than life persona that allows her to tweak her rep as a serious, dramatic actress, and to do it in a campy, if underplayed, caricature of a monster.

    Guess what? She did. The movie works. It's not going to go down in history, but for what it was, it was light, it was fun, and it had an inspired performance by Streep. And that's all it was. July 3, 2006 reply
  • Bob: I didn't read the book. Went with my wife to please her and I like Meryl Streep. I enjoeyed it to my surprise quite a bit. I know it is thin and the characters are not well drawn but I wasn't expecting Silence of the Lambs or One flew Over the Cucoo's nest. Nice little film for an evening out. It doesn't deserve the raking over the coals Matt Anderson gave it.I thought the acting was great actually. Sounds like if the story had held to the book neither would have worked. It was a light fare and worked as that. Lighten up, Matt. July 16, 2006 reply
  • Louis Dobson: The simple fact is a screenplay can only possible handle 100 pages of book, so most books have to be cut to pieces in the process of adaption. That's why you end up with films that bear no relation to the source and people inevitably complain. Can't be avoided. But this book is so lightweight that cutting it down to 100 pages is juts a matter of leaving out the waffle. So why on Earth has the story been totally altered, emasculated, and the entire point surgically excised? I suspect one too many rewrites, and some pressure from the immensely powerful fashionistas. Shame - the book may have been structurally weak, but it was a great chance to share the experience of working for an evil, power crazed lunatic and vicariously tell them to get stuffed (like we should have but never did). The film - if the film has a point, I missed it. November 19, 2006 reply
  • Jori: I, for one, thought the movie was pretty good. It was kind of...I'm not sure how to say it...flat. Like, there was no real action, but there was definitely a lot of conflict, which is what kids like me like these days. I think Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep were perfectly chosen for their parts. I couldn't see anyone else but them playing those roles. But...

    Don't take my word for it. This is coming from someone who read 5 pages into the book (after I saw the movie) and lost interest. It lost almost a half of how the movie started, which was Andrea actually applying for the job, and Miranda criticizing her fashion choices. It starts in the middle of when she's already began to wear heels and stuff.

    I also didn't like what I read because the main character (Andrea) smoked, and I'm not a huge fan of main characters smoking. I liked how they changed it in the movie and she didn't smoke and her best friend (Lily) was not an big-time alcoholic. The car crash at the end would've just made the ending all sad and junk. And I like the change of her boyfriend because a school teacher is too perfect. Now being a cook gives a little more flaw to him.

    Oh, and Matt, I don't know what you're saying about it not being sexy enough. To me, there was too much sex and sexiness and suggestiveness. Then again, I'm 13, so that's just me.

    You have to remember, reviews like these are just opinions, no matter how professional. So I'm not gonna say "Don't waste your money on this DVD" or "You have to totally buy this DVD" or anything like SOME people. You can think what you want.

    Louis Dobson, films are not always created to make or prove a point. Most are just here to entertain, so lay off and enjoy the movie. And I could think of a bunch of movies that have handled over 100 pages of a book. (Cough*Harry*Cough*Potter*Cough).

    It was funny and light-hearted and I liked it a lot. It's a great movie and I recommend it, but, like I said, you can take my word for it, or you can't. It's your choice. December 25, 2006 reply
  • dave romo: what was the line at the of the movie. about if you dont hire her ---------------------------------------------------------- --------------- May 21, 2008 reply