MOVIECUBE — SEPTEMBER 2013 — ADAPTATION
Andrea Sachs, or Andy, has just graduated from Northwestern University. Aspiring to be a journalist, she came to New York hoping to find a job in publication. Yet unfortunately, the only job interview she managed to score is one for the position of a second assistant to the editor-in-chief of Runway, a huge fashion magazine. Unfortunate, because fashion might as well be the last thing Andy is interested in. However, Andy miraculously got the job, much to the demise of the first assistant, Emily.
Working for Miranda Priestly, the aforementioned editor-in-chief, is a big deal. It’s a job a million girls would kill for. But running ridiculous errands and getting humiliated by an icy-cold boss who seems incapable of feeling is not what Andy had in mind when she took the job. Eventually she cannot keep fighting the current and the new environment starts to affect her, inside and out.
The character Miranda Priestly is said to have been inspired by Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of the American Vogue magazine. In fact, the writer of the novel this movie is based on used to work as her personal assistant. Regardless of how much truth is really depicted in the movie, the result is one very enjoyable comedy-drama.
If you have your own image about the fashion industry, this movie might not prove you wrong. It shows the crazy, ridiculous, often laughable side of the industry, at times encouraging you to mock it. The characters act as if fashion is the most important thing in life, and that is not exactly an exaggeration. In the documentary The September Issue (R. J. Cutler, 2008, reviewed by Karamel Kinema earlier this month), it is shown that that is actually one of the reasons why Wintour’s daughter doesn’t plan on following her mother’s footsteps, she feels like there are more important issues out there she prefers to invest her life in. However, you might want to think about Wintour’s words, “People that say demeaning things about our world, I think that’s usually because they feel in some ways excluded or not part of the ‘cool group’. So as a result, they just mock it.” Admit it, she’s not exactly wrong.
Whatever your thoughts about fashion might be, whether you can tell the difference between the colors turquoise, lapis, and cerulean or not, there is little reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy this movie. It is what it is—a fun, upbeat movie full of pretty people in pretty clothes, and it doesn’t really pretend to be something else. Nevertheless, sometimes it does offer more than we expect, almost always because of Meryl Streep.
In a career spanning over more than 40 years, Streep has received 17 Oscar nominations, this one being the (record-breaking) 14th. Yes, she might have meatier roles than Priestly, but this is not to be dismissed easily. Streep stays away from imitating Wintour and creates her own Miranda Priestly, and this has got to be one of her best, most entertaining performances to date. Streep puts soul in this cold, seemingly inanimate emotionless figure. Her expressions are restrained, minimalistic, barely a twitch, barely a curve of her lips, and when that icy façade cracks, you’re caught off-guard.
In addition to Streep, the other actors are also suitably cast to their characters. Emily Blunt steals scenes as Emily, the condescending, snooty first assistant whose current aim in life is to be taken to Paris to accompany Priestly to Fashion Week, wear couture, and go to all the parties and events. Stanley Tucci’s Nigel doesn’t think twice about throwing demeaning remarks on Andy’s looks and yet cares about and helps her in his own way. Even Anne Hathaway is quite enjoyable as Andy, with her inevitable character transformation coming naturally.
Fashion might not be your cup of tea, and you can mock about how shallow people in the fashion industry are as much as you want, but don’t hate on this fun, enjoyable 109-minute movie—it can be quite a fitting companion on a lazy Sunday.