31
Aug
2011
Confessions: Adventures in the Awesomely Awful
The Devil Wears Prada
Rachel
We all have them: guilty pleasures. Those shows we don't tell our friends we watch, those movies we see over and over when we don't want to think, the books we hide under our beds. In Confessions, I try to explore what makes these particular pop-culture gems so compelling, and try to exorcise some of the bad mojo that surrounds them.

I'm going to start this by saying that, because Meryl Streep is in the Devil Wears Prada , I obviously adore it. Take that, Sam.

I wish I could say I didn't just love the clothes and the idea of having a glamorous (but no really, its not so glamorous) job in New York City. From the opening sequence of the clackers getting ready juxtaposed with Andy, you're meant to know the life that you'd want. You want to wear high heels and be driven around in a fancy town car rather than wearing sensible loafers and taking the subway. These are the beautiful people who are supposed to run the world, right? That is exactly what I want to see on a Monday night, in my pajamas and curled up on my couch with my roommates.

But really, the movie, taken at face value, is just so awful. Andy is a terrible character. She's all the stereotypes of a bend-in-the-wind woman. I mean, in the end, yes, the argument can be made that she stands up for something she believes in, but it barely counts. Here, it is career or social life. It's beauty or nourishment. It's expensive or it's worthless. No compromise is acceptable.

Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, Emily Blunt and (to a much lesser extent) Simon Baker and Adrien Grenier save this movie. Because while Miranda might be a stereotype, Streep plays it perfectly; she is just as effective making a point with a raised eyebrow as she is with an extended monologue on cerulean. While other characters relegate her to dragon-lady status, I actually think it's easy to see the complications in her personality: her love of her children, her pride in her work, her often unfortunate and superficial colleagues and her attempt to maintain her impeccable taste while dealing with subpar talent. Yes, there are parts when she might be too demanding, but having built the stature she has, maintaining an involved and steady editorial hand in the entire magazine, I think she sort of has the right to be so. I don't think its out of hand to hold people around you, particularly people who are clearly your subordinates, to the same standards to which you hold yourself.



Tucci's Nigel is really probably the only person in this entire movie I'd actually ever want to talk to or interact with on a regular basis, because he manages to make Nigel's connection to fashion seem like a sincere love of a unique art rather than a consumerist obsession with conspicuous consumption. When he hands Andy a pair of heels on her first day, it appears that he is being genuinely helpful, not overtly judgmental.



It doesn't hurt that Streep and Tucci have great on-screen chemistry that has driven them to share multiple projects with great success. They're adorable together, their friendship is completely believable, and their interactions manage to keep them from both appearing as complete archetypes instead of real people. Even towards the end, when Miranda betrays Nigel to maintain her own editorship, I trust Nigel in believing Miranda will make it up to him. He must know something that isn't fully exposed to Andy in during her minimal tenure as Miranda's bitch/assistant.

Meanwhile, Hathaway's Andy completely lacks subtly or nuance. She laughs too loudly when it's meant to be an under-the-breath chuckle, her hair flips are just a bit too contrived, and her eyes entirely too doe-eyed. She's whiney and over the top and it makes the completely predictable character and storyline all the more annoying. But my issues with Andy run deeper than her unfortunate facial expressions. She doesn't even try to hide the fact that she sees this job as completely temporary. She refuses to take the material she's dealing with seriously, sees it as beneath her, and expects to be handled with kid gloves because she graduated with a fancy award from a big name school (maybe this is just my bitterness about looking for jobs during a recession and getting turned down for things that I'm clearly insanely overqualified for"¦). I mean, really, she thinks it's a good idea to walk up the stairs into her boss' home while completing a work related task? Come on, how dumb are you?



And when she makes the flip to the dark side, she becomes a hollow, smarmy sycophant who is basically only tolerable because of her outfits, and really, all the credit goes to Nigel for that. She consistently refuses to take responsibility for her own actions or any pride in her work, both of which I find annoying as hell. As her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend yells at her, either own what you are/what you're doing or make the decision to go do something else, because while someone else can make you miserable, it's your decision to stay miserable, particularly in circumstances like Andy (supportive parents, startling intellect, bright future, etc.). It is unfortunate to say the least that, in the presence of a strong professional woman, none of Miranda's chutzpah, passion, drive, or effectiveness rub off on Andy, who remains a coaster throughout.



Emily Blunt, playing the aptly named first assistant Emily, offers an interesting counterpoint to Andy throughout the film. She's quirky and mean, which I love, and while her humor also tends towards over the top, like Hathaway's, Blunt is actually able to land her punch lines appropriately. Maybe it's the accent or the red hair, but Emily is pitch perfect as the bitch you love to hate, and in the end, in a single moment of emotion that manages to be genuine without sacrificing control, she also proves she has a heart.

The eye candy in this movie is, fortunately, not relegated to the wardrobe alone. Simon Baker as the enigmatic playboy writer Christian Thompson, with his prodigious knowledge of publishing and Paris, is pretty swoon-worthy. Unfortunately for him, however, Andy is quick to relegate him to a stereotype, again exhibiting the judgment and derision she so bemoans in the world she finds herself in, again incurring the wrath of my immense annoyance. When referring to Andy's move to the "dark side" post-makeover, Christian calls her new focus sexy, which Andy dismisses for the briefest of moments before responding with a wide-eyed "Really?" Makes me gag every time. Listen, lady"¦by this point, you should know you're hot. In fact, Nigel just called you hot about an hour earlier. Don't pretend to be innocent when faced with the big, bad, sleazy writer. You buy into him just as much as he buys into himself.

Also, I get angry when she takes such offense to Christian calling her "baby." He knows you. Biblically. I think he's earned at least one use of a pet name (I'd make the argument that he's attempting to be comforting, not patronizing here, but that is a completely separate fight. But just for fun, my primary evidence is Christian's response to Miranda's announcement at the fashion week lunch. He clearly has more of a soul then Andy gives him credit for.). Throughout her interactions with Christian, Andy mocks his suave personality, his debonair lines and his playboy attributes. But those are the things that draw Andy to them. Look at her face after he kisses her in the gallery, her stuttering when he kisses her after their dinner in Paris. She isn't all she's attempting to present herself as, and her dislike for Christian seems to me to be misdirected anger.

In the end, however, I'm just as angry at Andy's explanation of her guilt. She didn't really turn her back on her friends and family. She did what she felt she needed to do to get what it is she wanted. I understand the need for work/life balance, and that you shouldn't take your loved ones for granted. But this idea that, particularly as a woman, you should defer to the people in your life rather than seeking professional advancement makes me sort of upset (I'm clearly a raging, angry feminist type. Can't you tell by the fact that I watched The Devil Wears Prada in the first place?). Andy's problem throughout this movie is that she doesn't know how to be or live for herself. Her unfortunate slip up is using Miranda as a source of external validation rather

You can mock me for being drawn to this movie for Meryl and the designer labels, but really, it is the ttreatment of these two elements that makes this movie at all worth watching. The story itself, and the performance by the main character, is obvious, predictable, and ultimately fluffy. But the fashion isn't over the top "Fashion." The costumes, which take on a major role in the plot, considering it's a movie about the fashion industry, are made up of classic style, sleek well crafted pieces rather than tacky, trendy ridiculousness (see, for instance, Confessions of a Shopaholic for the opposite sensation). Miranda rejects this kind of sub-par spectacle fashion when she demolishes the James Holt line, and it is the same kind of subtle, classic performances that make me like the host of supporting characters mentioned above while I hate Andy (and her friends, for the most part). Nigel isn't far off base when he extols fashion for being art that you live in, far from the superfluous extravagance that Andy thinks it is. New York is also as significant a character as the clothes in the Devil Wears Prada as well, and it's the New York that I love and most people are terrified of: it will chew you up and spit you out. You have to work for what you get, and you have to work harder than you would almost anywhere else. But when you make it, you know you've earned it.



Hooked? Check out more Confessions: Adventures in the Awesomely Awful here

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