(May Contain Spoilers)
Summary: “A Million Girls would Kill for It” yet no one is hurt, bruised or well, killed
“A million girls would kill for this job” is iterated with awe by Emily Charlton, Christian Thompson, Nigel and Doug when referring to the position of Miranda Priestley’s assistant. It is indeed a prestige value to do work for Miranda, to answer her calls, to get her lunch, to deliver ‘The Book’ to her residence, to arrange for dresses, to … walk her dogs, to eh…. steal a copy of the unpublished Harry Potter manuscript so that her precious daughters get to know whether Harry survives or not, to …. do anything and everything SHE wishes, because YOU have become the ‘coveted’ assistant of Miranda Priestley, even though she may rechristen you to suit her memory. You also have to endure all her petty whims and her acidic tongue, otherwise you won’t get all those precious goodies like a Chanel (or whatever the brand name is) purse, lip gloss, eye roller etc. And what happens after the initial bullying, insults and browbeating? You are still treated like dirt. Still YOU are Miranda Priestley’s assistant – she can make or mostly break you.
The Devil Wears Prada had the potential of becoming a dark, twisted comedy drama or even a thriller had it utilized the ‘million girls would kill…’ line literally. Emily Charleston certainly seemed envious of Andy Sachs becoming the apple of Miranda’s beady eyes. She was so keen to go to Paris and meet those models, designers and writers – if only Sachs did not get appointed. She may have selected the previous assistants purposely so that they disappoint Miranda and get fired; EMILY would get to be her assistant alone, had Sachs not arrived.
Instead Devil Wears Prada chooses a safer, predictable approach of Sachs involvement in fashion and her subsequent understanding about herself and her true aims. Even this would’ve hit the mark had Miranda been a lot tamer or a lot more autocratic. When Sachs has diligently worked for Miranda, even at the cost of her close ones, and endured Miranda’s irrational behavior for so long, it seems insincere of her to suddenly empathize with her boss just because her boss has her own personal problems. To me, that moment was cinematic manipulation at its worst.
Miranda is a highly ambitious, career-oriented woman who does not run Runway but rather rules Runway. She is the female Caligula in the field of fashion, and her own employees scurry to their respective places whenever she arrives. She does not accept anything that is less than perfect, and then she does not even give some encouragement to her designers. How can Andy Sachs, who experiences Miranda’s abuse of power every day, have a change of heart after one fleeting moment of vulnerability from Miranda? She does not want Miranda to be replaced, saying that Runway is Miranda’s life and baby; well, if this is how Miranda treats her baby, then isn’t it better if there is a change of leadership?
Another factor that mars Miranda’s softer side is that this is a film and not a television series, unlike the hugely popular Ugly Betty, where the villainous Vanessa Williams cools down gradually as the show comes to a close. It would take more than a single scene to convince me that Miranda is really a suitable leader of Runway. Another alternative ending that would have suited the title was to have Andy resume her work with Miranda and becoming as dominating and hard-hearted as her (something similar to All about Eve).
The lightweight happy ending in Devil Wears Prada robs the edginess that it could’ve had. Also, Andy Sachs should’ve left her inconsiderate boyfriend and stayed with the writer, who to me actually had some chemistry with her. All this is compromised to make the movie (and the book) more suited for young love-story-and-happy-ending loving girls. And based on the gross sales of the movie and the book, it did work for the intended audience. I found the story to be (a favorite word used by some reviewers on IMDb) smarmy, lightweight and pandering.
Meryl Streep seemed more like a supporting ‘Miranda watches over us’ figure rather than the main actress. She speaks laconically, incisively and cuttingly in a cynical low tone that does make her appear like a monster, yes, but her character did not really require Streep to say, work her butt off, like in Sophie’s Choice or Out of Africa. Neither did her character have to undergo a sea of contradictory emotions that required great prowess. I am not speaking against Streep, she was Miranda, but she had a supporting influence on the main actress, Anne Hathaway. Crowing her with best actress nominations instead of supporting actress will only make DWP seem like another Meryl vehicle. Anne Hathaway makes this movie look more like her fairytale, where she meets all these people and discovers herself – shimmerier on the surface than within. Emily Blunt is given a terrible and reductive role; the writer could have done wonders with a character like her, instead she just played a sidekick. Stanley Tucci‘s subtle and restrained performance is also underutilized. In short, everyone, including many of the supporting parts, played their characters well, but their characters were written without much thought.
Putting Madonna’s numbers like Vogue and Jump were awkward – I only thought they would have it in the trailer and not in the middle of the film. Speaking about Madonna, there is a slick number of hers in Confessions on a Dance Floor called ‘Like it or not’ which is like a middle finger to her haters. ‘This is who I am, You can like it or not, You may love me or leave me, But I’m never going to stop, oh no!’ she sings. Had Andy continued her alliance with Miranda and left her former, bubbly self, Devil Wears Prada would have been a sinful delight.
- 15 Life Lessons From ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ (thoughtcatalog.com)