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"The Devil Wears Prada"
Dir: David Frankel

Patricia Ducey

As the dog days of summer settle in and temperatures crest over 100 degrees, Hollywood plies us with its usual summer schedule of chick flicks, gore fests, and family blockbusters—except for a sprinkling of an indie or documentary or two, the operative word here is “fluff.”

And what a relief when the fluff is enjoyable. As I hesitatingly purchased my ticket one broiling afternoon for The Devil Wears Prada, I steeled myself for what I anticipated to be a dreary (but air-conditioned) experience, like the misbegotten Zellweger/McGregor vehicle, Down with Love. What I found instead was a smart, funny update of the Doris Day woman’s film, where Day finds herself in a series of screwball situations that twist and turn into the inevitable resolution, when she finds true love and/or career as the credits roll. Okay, back in the Day day, career and romance was usually an either-or proposition, but the updated narrative has lost none of its punch, if Devil is any indication. While Down with Love fetishizes the conventions of the genre, mocking its homilies on life and love, Devil updates its sturdy themes: how can a woman be true to herself, find love, and now, in a bow to modernity, find work with personal meaning, all at the same time?

Meryl Streep breathes fire as editor Miranda Priestly (purportedly a take on Vogue editor Anna Wintour) against Anne Hathaway’s recent college graduate and very serious 20-something Andy Sachs. Miranda, intrigued by Andy’s spunk and total lack of fashion sense, hires her as the Second Assistant, a job that requires a cheerful, militarily efficient execution of every and all demeaning, impossible tasks that the Queen of Mean can think up--or that the First Assistant can delegate down. After all, Miranda and all her literati connections are a rich reward; her trial by fire job is designed to test the mettle of any aspirant to her world, the high stakes, take-no-prisoners business of le haute monde.

Director David Frankel (also of Sex And The City) and writer Aline Brosh McKenna create complex characters who reveal themselves convincingly. We discover that Andy is a bit of a user herself and Miranda’s soul is not wholly made of crushed glass. Her wise, acerbic putdown of Andy’s arrogant I-am-so-above- this-fashion-thing stance serves as the emotional turning point of the movie, allowing us to buy into Andy’s emotional growth in the final reels. Watching Andy and her fiendish boss wrestle their sensibilities (and each other’s) proves as enjoyable a diversion as an ice cream cone in August—not to mention that it allows us to revel in the talent and the beauty--and, oh, the clothes!--of the deadly serious ‘fluff’ that is fashion.

-- Patricia Ducey

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