Starring: Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt
Director: David Frankel
Running Time: 109 mins
The Devil Wears Prada is an American film about a woman who, despite having no interest in fashion, gets a job as the personal assistant to the diva boss of a major fashion magazine.
It’s not that The Devil Wears Prada is an awful film, but it’s definitely not one that I could really get on board with. Despite improving in its final act to introduce a degree of emotional drama, it’s a film that feels very exclusive to those with a care for fashion, and it doesn’t really do much to make anyone else laugh or become really invested in the characters.
Now, normally I don’t like to be so subjective when looking at a film like this, but there’s something about The Devil Wears Prada that made it impossible for me to like. Although I’m still unsure as to whether it’s an ironic drama, the film’s first two acts are painfully irritating and even shallow.
Throughout, we follow Anne Hathaway’s character as she goes from ‘poorly-dressed nobody’ to stylish fashion executive under the arm of Meryl Streep. In that time, she suffers constant ridicule and abuse up to the point where she completely changes her entire personality and look to fit in.
Now, many stories follow that exact story line, and although it’s not a particularly original line to pursue, it’s not my biggest problem. However, the fact that the film effectively takes until the final 10 minutes to develop its moral compass makes it a painfully frustrating watch, as it genuinely feels as if there will be no recognition of the shallow and vapid actions of almost all of the main characters.
Thinking about it, I’m pretty sure that the film is meant to be an ironic satire of the fashion world, but it still goes about that in far too subtle a manner, and definitely doesn’t achieve the desired effect. On the other hand, if we take everything literally, it’s a horrifyingly shallow film that seems to celebrate the idea of appearance over personality, whilst also placing so much importance on gawking at luxury designer clothes that anyone who has no interest in that is completely excluded from the film.
What could have made a difference in that regard would be comedy. However, The Devil Wears Prada is not the sort of film to really make you laugh. Although in the very early stages there are a few chuckles, the majority of the comedy is entirely predictable, and doesn’t provide enough relief from the frustrating story. Whilst it’s clear that this isn’t meant to be a laugh-out-loud riot, the attempts to lighten the mood at times are still poor, making for an even more disappointing watch.
Those are the biggest problems I have with this movie. On the brighter side, the performances aren’t all that bad. Meryl Streep is very solid as the nasty, egotistical magazine boss, whilst the likes of Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci add good vibrancy to the ensemble.
If there’s one performance I have issue with, it’s Anne Hathaway’s. Whilst she’s not too bad, albeit a little bland, I really feel like she was miscast. Again, it depends on the film’s level of irony, but even so, the early stages sees Hathaway’s character being branded as ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ time and time again. In truth, that comes off as particularly irritating given the reality of Hollywood A-lister Anne Hathaway, and I have a feeling that it’s a role that would have felt more relatable, and the character development more impacting, if someone less glamorous were cast.
Finally, I can’t forget that the film does at least end on a high. Whilst the preceding 90 minutes are by no means interesting or engaging, the film’s very final act finally shows a degree of depth and intelligence missing from before. From then on, it’s a lot more entertaining and interesting to follow the characters, but it’s a real shame that it only lasts for about ten minutes. Although the finale does confirm the film’s more irony-leaning tendencies, it’s still not an excuse for the way it goes about that before.
Overall, I found The Devil Wears Prada a frustrating film. Particularly due to the ambiguity of whether it wants to be ironic or not for the majority of the runtime, I felt unable to really care for any of the seemingly vapid characters, or even laugh at some of the lighter moments. Whilst I think fashion fans will be able to appreciate a lot more of what happens, it’s still not a well-rounded film, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.3.