Talk about defying expectations — I sat down earlier this year to watch The Devil Wears Prada fully anticipating that I'd be bored out of my mind by this chick-lit adaptation. Was I ever wrong: Meryl Streep delivered a performance that had people talking Oscar in June, director David Frankel (who cut his teeth on several HBO series, including "Entourage" and - you guessed it - "Sex and the City") somehow managed to make this fluffy dramedy about couture seem effortless and actually engage this reviewer, who could care about who's wearing what and even elicit a scene-stealing performance from the terrific Emily Blunt, who more or less thieved The Devil Wears Prada right out from under Anne Hathaway's nose.
If nothing else, The Devil Wears Prada was a light-as-air antidote to the humdrum sequel-infested summer, a breezy, date night cinch that actually holds up upon repeated viewings, proving that screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna did a very solid job extracting the humanity from Lauren Weisberger's acclaimed roman-a-clef about her tour of duty with Vogue magazine's editatrix Anna Wintour (upon whom Streep may or may not have based her character, wink wink, nudge nudge). And again, upon revisiting the film for this review, it's clear that Streep, at the very least, should be considered a dark horse Oscar candidate for a deeply human portrayal that, in lesser hands, would've been the unpleasant caricature of a stone-cold bitch.
Hathaway stars as perky, idealistic J-school grad Andrea (Andy for short) Sachs, who's landed in New York City with ambitions towards a career in the world of magazine journalism — a slight detour is in order, however, as Andy finds herself serving as an assistant to Miranda Priestly (Streep), one of the most feared and respected editors in the business. As her haughty co-worker Emily (Blunt) informs her, if she can last a year with Miranda, Andy can land a job at any magazine she chooses. Disgusted with the uptight, glitz-obsessed world of fashion but determined to stick it out, Andy desperately tries to hold on — not only to her job, but also her sense of self, as she slips ever deeper into the seductive, glamorous world of haute couture. Her boyfriend Nate ("Entourage" star Adrian Grenier) feels her job is changing her while Nigel (a fantastic Stanley Tucci), Miranda's right-hand man, encourages the young woman to embrace her sense of adventure. Building to a poignant climax at the height of the Paris showcases, The Devil Wears Prada has some bittersweet reality to mix in with its flighty fantasies, underscoring that success very nearly always comes at a heavy price.
I can't really underscore enough just how much fun and how touching The Devil Wears Prada really is — aside from Streep's commanding, humanistic performance as the iron maiden of magazines, much of the cast makes this film soar; arguably, the one weak link would be Hathaway herself. While she makes for a convincing clothes horse, Hathaway can't really handle the shifts in tone from bubbly to sober — surprising, considering that her work in Brokeback Mountain was some of her strongest to date and called upon her to tap into a much more difficult range of emotions. Nevertheless, The Devil Wears Prada is an effervescent delight, a film that will surprise you and deliver one of the year's most rewarding entertainments. Remember, you can't always judge a magazine by its cover. The DVD
The Devil Wears Prada arrives on DVD sporting a very clean, crisp 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer — colors are vivid and rich, blacks are inky and sharpness is excellent. There were a few instances of video noise and a little smearing, but this is quite likely due to the fact that Fox provided a check disc for review rather than final product. Should any significant video issues arise once I've assessed the final retail version, I'll amend my review accordingly. The Audio:
The well-chosen pop songs and atmospheric city streets provide plenty of work for this lively Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack — dialogue is heard clearly and without distortion, while the immersive New York City and Paris scenes feel vibrant. A French Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtrack and a Spanish Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtrack, with optional English and Spanish subtitles, is also available. The Extras:
20th Century Fox serves up a sizable helping of supplements that are Devilishly enjoyable: an overstuffed commentary track featuring Frankel, producer Wendy Finerman, costume designer Patricia Field, screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, editor Mark Livolsi and director of photography Florian Ballhaus kicks things off — it's an appropriately chatty, light listen, with plenty of information and camaraderie; it's clear these filmmakers had a great time putting this project together. Five featurettes — the 12 minute, two second "The Trip to the Big Screen"; the six minute, 25 second "NYC and Fashion"; the eight minute, 45 second "Fashion Visionary: Patricia Field"; the two minute, 53 second "Getting Valentino" and the two minute, 36 second "Boss From Hell" — cover everything from adapting a novel to film and the dazzling array of costumes to New York City's relationship with the fashion industry and securing the climactic locations in Paris. Fifteen deleted scenes, all presented in anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 or with optional Frankel/Livolsi commentary, are included, playable separately or all together for an aggregate of 21 minutes, 35 seconds. A mildly amusing five minute, nine second gag reel, also presented in anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1, is here with trailers for The Devil Wears Prada and The Illusionist, TV spots for The Family Stone and In Her Shoes and a promo for The Devil Wears Prada soundtrack completing the disc. Final Thoughts:
The Devil Wears Prada is an effervescent delight, a film that will surprise you and deliver one of the year's most rewarding entertainments. It features a few tremendous performances — a sure-to-be-nominated Meryl Streep, a scene-stealing Emily Blunt and a fantastic Stanley Tucci. Remember, you can't always judge a magazine by its cover. Highly recommended.