Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Andy Sachs: But what if this isn't what I want? I mean what if I don't wanna live the way you live?
Miranda Priestly: Oh, don't be ridiculous. Andrea. Everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us. ~The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
I planned to review The Devil Wears Prada after writing about its precursor The Best of Everything over a year and a half ago, but never got to it. It is a good thing, since I have had the opportunity to watch the film several times on cable television and solidify my thoughts. People have told me that I should just watch and enjoy films for pleasure, without dwelling overmuch on the moral aspects (or lack thereof) of a given piece. The Devil Wears Prada, however, is a bit of a morality tale, or at least aspires to be one, in a bizarre sort of way. The heroine Andrea (Anne Hathaway) is a lovely, highly educated, aspiring journalist, who lives with a scruffy, oafish aspiring chef. They do not appear to be engaged or otherwise seriously commited except in a romantic Mimi and Rodolfo sort of way. Although Andrea must support herself, she is expected to be at the beck and call of her boyfriend. Nate, in his turn, makes her grilled cheese sandwiches.

In order to further her journalistic career, Andrea takes a job as the secretary to Miranda Priestley (Meryl Streep), the editor of a fashion magazine. Andy, being a quick study, soons learns how to dress appropriately for her new job and rise to the challenges of the highly competitive fashion industry. She accomplishes several Herculean tasks for the demanding and unreasonable Miranda. Miranda, in spite of her elegant apparel, is one of the rudest, most unladylike women in filmdom, tossing her coat at people and snatching things that are handed to her in the most vulgar manner possible. Perhaps that is how the world of wealth and power affects certain personalities.

Andy accepts it all with grace, determined to succeed at her job. She no longer has as much time for scruffy Nate, who resents her fashionable new clothes, saying boorishly: "I liked the old clothes." Now this is where the movie frustrates me. Why does Andrea stand for that? Nate did not pay for her clothes, old or new. Who is he to criticize what she worked very hard for and what she is expected to wear for her job? He is not even her fiancé. He infers that she is sacrificing her values for material possessions and losing her integrity. Is he willing to provide for her? NO. Does he want to be her husband? NO. Then he has no right to complain about the time she has to devote to her work in order to provide for herself. And how dare he say a word about her clothes. What a bum.

I think that Andrea is in no danger of ever becoming Miranda Priestley, although that seems to be everyone's fear. She is too altruistic at heart to ever become a cutthroat. Working for Miranda is merely an opportunity for learning, seeing the world, and meeting all kinds of interesting people. Nevertheless, all of her so-called friends beg her to give up her position so she can go back to being Nate's plaything. I agree with the reviewer at Good News Film Reviews who says:
The transformation of the character of Andy from Ohio girl to fashion fancy pants is so complete that by the time she has to decide if she should stay with the fashion hierarchy or go back to shopping at The Gap, it seems stupid for her to turn back. She’s sacrificed everything, gained a great deal, and her old life seems troubled and petty. Granted, the fashion world is the sham, but it is sold in the film as being better than hanging with the grunts of the world.
In the end, after getting rid of Nate, Andrea almost dies of joy that he is considering taking her back. What is wrong with her? I think that love is often confused with a codependent need to be physically used and psychologically abused. At least Gigi was offered a house and a diamond bracelet and dinner at Maxim's before deciding to give herself body and soul to a man who had no interest in marriage. Why does Andy hold herself so cheap? I would have stayed in Paris.

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16 comments:

Faust said...

Hi :) I've been following your blog for sometime, and I was wondering... I noticed a few of my Confirmation students like to read historical fiction (but the ones written for their age group). Do you have any good suggestions for their age group dealing with Marie-Antoinette or the French Revolution?

And to make this comment relevant to the post... I just saw this on cable the other day as well and your perspective is totally different from what I saw, which is very refreshing, and also demonstrates so well the difference between generations. Someone of my generation would never have thought of Nate as how you described. Most people my age think that just because they are living together think they have the right to treat each other as if they are married. It struck me hard reading your post because even I saw Nate through the eyes of my generation completely unaware of the marriage factor, which was wrong. I never realized how ignorant I still am, having grown up amidst this kind of media. I never thought living together before marriage was right, but it has become such a normal sight in my culture that I've become almost completely numb to it.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Faust, for your thoughts. I am tired of seeing young women getting kicked around by boyfriends and then coming back for more abuse. Crazy.

Well, I can only suggest my own novels, TRIANON and MADAME ROYALE, which are perfect for the age group you are teaching. They are available through Amazon (see left sidebar.)

Julygirl said...

Great review. I loved this film, and the casting is perfect. Stanley Tucci, who goes on to pare up with Meryl Strep in Julie and Julia, and the Emily Blunt character who one dislikes even more than Amanda if that is possible. It is interesting to watch the effect the naive assistant unwittingly has on all these characters who believe their world of fashion is the ultimate.
I think one has a right to make moral judgements regarding whether or not to see a film, I just feel one should not avoid seeing a film because it may have immoral characters.

Faust said...

Thank you. I'm looking forward to finally reading them :)

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I was starting to think I was the only one who saw Nate as petty and in need of a shave (and a haircut)!

It was especially unfair of him to try to make Andy believe that she was turning into a bad person because she was devoting so much time to her job as Miranda's assistant. If she had landed the position at the magazine which she originally wanted, then she would have been just as busy--and then where would he have laid the blame without sounding like a self-entitled boor?

I guess the title should actually be The Devil Looks Scruffy and Unkempt? ;)

Julygirl said...

More to the point in this review, regarding the Nate and Andy coupling, was not so much whether they lived together or not, but that the Nate character was just as narcissistic as Miranda in his demands for Andy's attention, feeling he had 'first dibs' on who was the most important in her eyes. Any interest in her career or advancement was gauged only upon how it would impact him.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, Julygirl, I too, enjoyed the film; it really was perfectly cast. I do think that there is a difference between the demands of a committed husband and the demands of a live-in uncommitted boyfriend.

E., I totally agree. ANY job with a major newspaper or magazine would be demanding. Even if Andy were sitting at home working on a novel, it would take up a chunk of her time. And every spouse whose spouse works knows that there are times when birthdays are missed and sacrifices must be made so a job can be kept, for the sake of the family's finances. But Nate is a brat who does not want his sex life interrupted.

Agnes B Bullock said...

Spot on review!!!!!

Jamie said...

Wow, this is a completely different (and wonderful) take! Maybe, like Faust, it's because we're from different generations, but for some reason I thought Nate had a right to complain. I saw Andy becoming vain and sacrificing her passion for writing for some money. But I see your point, Elena, and I think I agree!

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks, Jamie. I am impressed by how easily Andy gave away her Paris clothes at the end~ they were just not that important to her, at least not as important as making amends with Emily.

howdidIgethere said...

I absolutely love this movie and I didn't think I could stomach it when it first came on cable tv. I love Meryl STreep and her ability to hide most of herself in a role but I do see her in Miranda. Not in the boorish behavior but when she's having fun with fashion; not that I've met her, mind you, just that she seems to be real.

Anyway, I agree that Nate is demanding of Andy and she just takes it. I see this all the time; that women are supposed to be soooooooo happy they found someone to tolerate them. It's vulgar. It's cheap. It's getting milk without buying the cow. Andy is a supreme idiot to go back to Nate. It's obvious to me that they are clouded by what they think is love and do not clearly love one another. Granted, it's hollywood love and not God's idea of married love. Anyway, the movie is always enjoyable and I think the actors stay true to their respective characters.

I'll fully admit that since seeing that film, it has given me a broader appreciation of fashion and how I should take pride in what I throw on my back every day.
Thanks for the review!

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks, Agnes!

Thanks, howdidIgethere. I love watching Meryl Streep in the role; I love her clothes and her white hair. In spite of her character flaws Miranda is a fascinating person.

Georgette said...

Great review, Elena! I also was very disappointed with Andy's choice at the end of this film, and you nailed it exactly why I felt this way!

PV said...

dear Elena,

by chance I found this older post of yours...I find it so refreshing specially when it comes to Andy-Nate relationship. I see it all around me: young and not so young women being humiliated by boyfriends and even husbands in the most incredible ways! I could tell hair-rising stories about what is going on over here (I live and work in Okinawa now, as you know)...However, almost everyone around me cannot understand why I do not accept a hmmm...let's say postmodern relationship.

elena maria vidal said...

Young women are more abused than ever before and yet it is all in the name of free love.

PV said...

Yes Elena agree...ah, free love: a truly evil snare.