Day Twenty-Two: The Devil Wears Prada (MotM 2017)

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I have a bit of a confession to make: I think Anne Hathaway is gorgeous. She is what some would call my “celebrity crush,” with her cute “girl next door” appeal and mousy features. She’s absolutely adorable to me. I had heard good things about The Devil Wear Prada for a number of years; knowing Anne Hathaway was in the starring role wasn’t exactly motivation for me to see it at any point this month… but it didn’t dissuade me, either. I’ve already seen Love and Other Drugs twice.

What does it take to make a film about relatable problems entertaining? What does it take to make characters feel fresh, small conflicts feel bigger in perspective? These are the things that The Devil Wears Prada combats, especially when it has so little to use as a crutch. There’s no fantasy subplot, no creative gimmick that makes it stand out. The film’s structure and premise are about as realistically standard as one could get. It focuses on characters, while dabbling slightly within the world of fashion and stardom. In hindsight, there really isn’t anything about this film that would scream for one to watch it. All that stands between it and one’s enjoyment is the execution of the simplest of perspectives.

With that said, it immediately becomes a fault that it simply can’t help; there is nothing special about this film. Its foundation is formulaic, the conflicts are overused. It creates a predictability about the film that seems to follow suit with films in the past, dulling the impact any one or two actions could end up having on the audience because they’re imagining someone else doing it better. Cookie-cutter, it is not. Just within the shape of something that could be a cookie, that can’t quite cut.

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Fortunately, the characters, as are the major focus of the film, are presented in a nice enough manner to make the film worth watching. Hathaway (I’m not biased) makes for a lovable lead, with a determination that fits her naive persona. Her character goes through the workings anybody within her position would go through, with a passionate enough performance to take it a little further. Not Oscar-worthy by any means, but well-served. Meryl Streep also makes for an intriguing character, one who is debatably the most interesting character in the film. Her life is much like one would expect on the surface from a celebrity: lavish, high expectations, extraordinary. It isn’t until nearly the end of the film that her life becomes more grounded, as the audience is introduced to the humanity of her character’s idol status. Hathaway ends up developing alongside her, while also through her. It makes for a fascinating comparison of what if’s.

To be frank, minor characters are rather hit and miss. More specifically, Hathaway’s friends/boyfriend are kind of there just to give her some semblance of a social life/support group. They’re never given a lot of proper development or screentime outside of introductions and foreshadowing of changes to Hathaway’s priorities. Her boyfriend in particular is really just there to be the victim of Hathaway’s growing career. That or a sex toy… but I’d prefer to address his role with the former (I’m not biased). I suppose credit should be given for making the characters appear more often than they could’ve (that being not at all), I simply wonder how the film could’ve maintained their importance for longer periods of time.

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Minor characters within Streep’s business fare a lot better in terms of development and intrigue. Stanley Tucci and Emily Blunt both do a fine job of making their character’s quirks come to life, along with making them, in a way, “frenemies” with Hathaway. Tucci has a sass to him that makes him likable, along with a knowledgeable frankness that gives scenes involving him some spark. Blunt is a little more simple, serving as the higher-up that eventually gets passed up upon some mistake or so. Her haughty behavior reflects a lot of the atmosphere that the company she works for embodies, especially by their superior. Both play a part in the bigger aspects of things, though somewhat pale in comparison to the big picture.

This big picture being the development of Hathaway’s character into one entirely unlike her current one. Again, formulaic to have a character become the evil they once mocked because it benefits their well being. Still, it’s nice to see some effort put forth into placing importance unto scenes that don’t necessarily reveal obvious changes or changes to come. I could see it in bits, but the development of Hathaway’s character came early after her change of attire. She became cockier, more affirmative. It’s really sexy fascinating. The minor characters enjoy reminding her of this, though I didn’t personally see her character change to the point where she becomes unfriendable. Just very busy. Comparisons to Streep’s character only come into focus at the very end, and by that point, it only dawns on the viewer how her character was on course to becoming an heir to Streep’s character’s throne. Like looking into a pool of one’s future.

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In somewhat of a twist of fate, I found The Devil Wears Prada far more entertaining than one with a similar structure. Perhaps it was Hathaway. Perhaps it was the energy and rush of trying to maintain a tough job. Perhaps it was the strength of the minor cast (within the business). Whatever it may be, the entertainment value rose to heights I would’ve never imagined, leaving me with a nice and cozy comfort upon the film’s final words. Despite the tired approach and the cheesy conflict, The Devil Wears Prada becomes recommendable from effort of character alone. Good performances by Hathaway (I’m no biased), Streep, and Tucci specifically make the film worth a look, though perhaps not for those with sky-high expectations. After all, in a world of stars, the only ones that matter are the ones that shine brighter.

Final Score: 6.5/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!