The Devil Wears Prada reviewed.

Reviews of the latest films.
June 30 2006 2:25 PM

Don't We Look Fabulous?

The Devil Wears Prada is good, clean fun. 

Listen to Dana Stevens and Amanda Fortini's Spoiler Special about  The Devil Wears Prada by clicking the arrow on the player below:

Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada. Click image to expand.
Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada

There's a moment in The Devil Wears Prada (Fox) when Anne Hathaway, as the put-upon editorial assistant Andy Sachs, defends her monstrous boss, fashion editor Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), by saying: "If she were a man, the only thing people would talk about is how good she is at her job." But by the film's end, Andy, along with the movie itself, backs down from this vaguely feminist claim. In the end, Miranda's sadistic perfectionism and deliberately insatiable demands aren't seen as evidence of her professional acumen or her commitment to Runway magazine; they're just evidence that she's a royal bitch. The Devil Wears Prada is a movie that revels in pleasure: the pleasure of fashion, of luxury, of power and ambition. It's also a tremendous pleasure to watch. (And who cares if the clothes aren't authentic? They're fabulous.) Nonetheless, there's something mealy-mouthed about the way the movie dangles all the goodies of worldly success before our eyes, then scolds its heroine for wanting to grab a little of that pleasure and power for herself.

Advertisement

When Andy finds herself making choices that privilege the professional over the personal—missing her boyfriend's birthday dinner, for example, when she's required to attend a Runway gala—we're meant to understand that she's drunk the Kool-Aid of careerism. Yet the sacrifices we see Andy making for her work—late hours, low pay, being forced to run menial errands for her superiors—are only comic exaggerations of the standard compromises that many young people, male and female, are asked to put up with in entry-level jobs. Are we supposed to agree that Andy really has sold her soul by privileging the mandatory work eventover the birthday boy? (Hey, she brings him a cupcake at midnight and apologizes profusely, wearing a gorgeous evening gown. I've had way worse birthdays than that.)

When, at the movie's climax, Andy wails about having betrayed her friends and family for the sake of her vampiric boss, I couldn't help but wonder if I'd napped through a scene or two. What did she do that was so shameful? Even the moment that's presented as Andy's moral nadir is rigged so as to render her powerless: Miranda Priestly, the most powerful woman in fashion, has just threatened to fire her and blackball her throughout the industry unless she agrees to do something mildly unethical—really, it's just un-nice—to a Runway colleague (who, incidentally, has treated Andy like utter dirt from her first day on the job). In other words, Andy's great descent into the ethical underbelly consists of not being the sweetest and most self-sacrificing person on-screen. To reframe Andy's defense of her boss: What if this were a movie about a man—a young man apprenticing himself to a hard-boiled older mentor? I can't help but think that the moral compromises required in order to sully the hero's character would be much greater, and that he wouldn't have to apologize for caring about his job.

Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.