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Thursday, June 22, 2006

 

ModFab On...The Devil Wears Prada

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, Andre Grenier, Tracie Thoms, and Emily Blunt
Written by Aline Brosh McKenna
Directed by David Frankel
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 106 minutes
in theatres nationwide Friday

If fashion is indeed a special brand of terrorism, then Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), editrix of the fictional magazine Runway, is the Osama bin Laden of Fifth Avenue. The extent to which you find this premise entertaining will tell whether or not you want to see The Devil Wears Prada, the screen adaptation of Lauren Weisberger's 2003 tell-all bestseller. Haute couture is hardly a universal subject -- if you have no idea who Lagerfeld is, think twice -- but director David Frankel works overtime to turn a very specific experience into a universal one. And haven't we all hated the boss, at one time or another? The film wobbles on its narrative heels often, but due in large part to a stunning comic turn by Meryl Streep, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA is a sweetly subversive take on self-discovery, twisting rites of adulthood and boss-from-hell stories into an entertaining romp through the fashion industry.

In some ways, Priestley is the role we have always wanted Streep to play: High Queen Bitch of the Universe. Wielding her frosty snobbery like a fencer's epee, the world's greatest character actress turns what could have easily been a caricature into the first Oscar-worthy performance of the year. Leaving the book's thinly-veiled references to Anna Wintour aside, Streep designs a villains who cuts with her eyes more than her temper, a woman so consumed with her empire that even a nod of her head sends dozens of people scurrying. It is such a masterful performance that it becomes easy to overlook the awkward eartnestness of Anne Hathaway (who, as assistant Andy Sachs, is actually the lead of the film), or the repetitiveness of the plot during the second act. (Just like in your own workplace, stories about the boss' bad behavior are fun at first, but wear thin quickly.)

Outstanding is Stanley Tucci as a long-suffering art director (who hits every mark with the flair of a true professional) and Emily Blunt as Emily, the career-climbing 'first assistant'. But it is really Streep's showcase; combined with her delicately charming role in A Prairie Home Companion, she is proving to be the most versatile comedic performer of 2006. I realize the mantle is already packed with statuettes, but if there is a God (and if that God chooses to recognize comedy), there will be another batch of honors gracing Streep this year.
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