Monday, July 4, 2011

The Devil Wears Prada

A few years ago, as I was suffering at work 18 hours a day, a friend gave me the book The Devil Wears Prada, written by Lauren Weisberger, who incidentally writes good books, although maybe just for female target customers…. Anyway, the book was so successful they had to turn it into a movie…. I do not remember how accurate the movie is compared to the book, but it gives a pretty good idea. Some facts are just referenced but not necessarily explicit : in the book, it is Miranda's trademark that she always has a white Hermès scarf somewhere on her person.

Directed by David Frankel and realeased in 2006, the cast is simply amazing : MerylStreep, Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci, Emily Blunt, the gorgeous trio : Adrian Grenier, Simon Baker, Daniel Sunjata, and a brief appearance (for the guys) by model Gisèle Bündchen.

Basically, Andy Sachs (Hathaway), recently graduated, has looked for journalist jobs everywhere in New York and as a last resort applies at Elias Clark to be the assistant of Miranda Priestly, editor in chief of Runway (a Vogue equivalent, I guess), a job « a million girls would kill for ». The deal is to work for Miranda for a year and go anywhere from there. As it turns out, it is not as straightforward.

Nigel: [talking about Andy] Who is that sad little person? Are we doing a before-and-after piece I don't know about?

Andy Sachs: [thinking she is about to be fired] Miranda, about last night. I'm...
Miranda Priestly: I need the new Harry Potter book for the twins.
Andy Sachs: [relieved] Okay. Okay. I'll go down to Barnes and Noble right now.
Miranda Priestly: [rolling her eyes] Did you fall down and smack your little head on the pavement?
Andy Sachs: Not that I can recall.
Miranda Priestly: We have all the published Harry Potter books. The twins want to know what happens next.
Andy Sachs: [realizing with dread] You want the unpublished manuscript.
Miranda Priestly: [baiting] Well, we know everyone in publishing, so it shouldn't be a problem should it? And you can do anything. Right?

Emily: I know. I'm so sorry, Miranda. I actually did confirm last night. 
Miranda Priestly: Details of your incompetence do not interest me. Tell Simone I'm not going to approve that girl that she sent me for the Brazilian layout. I asked for clean, athletic, smiling. She sent me dirty, tired and paunchy. And R.S.V.P. Yes to Michael Kors' party, I want the driver to drop me off at 9:30 and pick me up at 9:45 sharp. Call Natalie at Glorious Foods and tell her no for the 40th time. No! I don't want dacquoise. I want tortes filled with warm rhubarb compote. Then call my ex-husband and remind him that the parent-teacher conference is at Dalton tonight. Then call my husband, ask him to meet me for dinner at that place I went to with Massimo. Tell Richard I saw the pictures that he sent for that feature on the female paratroopers and they're all so deeply unattractive. Is it impossible to find a lovely, slender, female paratrooper? Am I reaching for the stars here? Not really. Also, I need to see all the things that Nigel has pulled for Gwyneth's second cover try. I wonder if she's lost any of that weight yet.

At Runway, Andy doscovers not only a world of fashion and glamour, but also the reverse of the medal, as she soons finds herself enslaved by her boss. After a disastrous start and in order to survive, she goes through a makeover, helped by artistic director Nigel, and gradually alienates herself from friends and family, presumably losing her boyfriend in the process.

Andy Sachs: Can you please spell 'Gabbana'?

Nigel: I don't know what you expect me to do. There's nothing in this whole closet that'll fit a size six. I can guarantee you. These are all sample sizes- two and four. All right. We're doing this for you. And...
Andy Sachs: A poncho?
Nigel: You'll take what I give you and you'll like it. We're doing this Dolce for you. And shoes. Jimmy Choo's. Manolo Blahnik. Nancy Gonzalez. Love that. Okay, Narciso Rodriguez. This we love. Uh, it might fit. It might.
Andy Sachs: What?
Nigel: Okay. Now, Chanel. You're in desperate need of Chanel. Darling, shall we? We have to get to the beauty department, and God knows how long that's going to take.

So, first, I have nothing against Anne Hathaway, but making her play a character deemed to be « fat » is a bit too much – come on, please.

Andy Sachs: So none of the girls here eat anything?
Nigel: Not since two became new four and zero became the new two.
Andy Sachs: Well, I'm a six...
Nigel: Which is the new fourteen.

I liked the bitchy character of Emily Blunt, playing Emily the first assistant, obsessed with shoes and diets, and I found the character impersonated by Stanley Tucci, whom I have always admired, added some substance to the whole story. But what really differentiates this film from a simple, forgettable chick flick, is the extraordinary performance of Meryl Streep : A-MA-ZING. Once again she pull it off, beautifully, to the point even I was scared !!!

Having watched the film a few times, I find the real thought behind is : where to stop ? It is asked through witty quotes, humourous sentences, but in the end that’s exactly it. It is more and more a fact that having a good career means giving up all pretence of a personal life. How much are we giving up for (the mirage ?) of professional success ? As one adapts to the corporate world, where competition is fierce, one slowly changes, as Emily bluntly puts it :
Emily: You sold your soul to the devil when you put on your first pair of Jimmy Choo's, I saw it.

It was, and still is, one of my big question when I consder the work I am doing, and where I would like to go from there. Nigel puts it quite clearly at some point :
Nigel: Let me know when your whole life goes up in smoke. Means it's time for a promotion.

So yes, I liked it, but after a few times it kind of leaves me with a bittersweet taste and unhappy questions about life and love.


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