The Devil Wears Prada

I apologize for the immature Tweet that promoted this review. I decided to sell my principles for commercial success. Much like Andy, in the fantastic 2006 film, The Devil Wears Prada, reviewed with 100% fewer homophobia!

Andy to Andrea

The Devil Wears Prada is a fantastic example of telling engaging stories by building your characters through arcs, choices and changes. It’s a wonderful example of using very basic structures of action and consequence to help the audience connect to and grow with the protagonist.

The film sets up Andy’s character being shown as shy and aloof, and how she desires success. She latches onto this belief that if she works hard and grinds, she will succeed. She sacrifices greater and greater things to pursue that success, turning more towards the dark side, despite the characters in the film telling her she’s changing for the worse. Eventually, at her peak, she’s confronted with the reality that even though one works hard and plays the game to win, they’ll still fall short, and keep waiting to achieve success like Nigel, her friend and mentor, after his promotion is stolen out under him by Miranda. 

The protagonist’s descent and crumbling of values is textbook character growth, essentially lifted from instructional books on film like The Anatomy of a Story; granted, the author uses the film as examples in the book, so maybe this run on sentence is more of a ‘what came first, the chicken or the egg’ situation, but nonetheless, I plan on ending this nonsensical statement  that hasn’t actually said anything at the word, here. Sorry.

Choices made and Unmade

Reminiscent of a horror film, where the stupid lead actor keeps entering the stupid dark basement, despite the entire audience knowing that it’s a bad idea, Andy continues to dive deeper into the world of fashion, despite everyone knowing she shouldn’t.

What I found interesting is that the film found a way to raise the stakes over and over, forcing Andy to sacrifice greater and greater things, without shooting the classic blue light into the sky or dangling the world’s end. Andy loses time with her father, her friends’ respect, then her boyfriend, and then her morality. And then there’s even more for her to sacrifice in pursuit of this. It was a brave effort, considering so many other works stick to the cliches, or are too scared to have characters lose something of value. This behavior confounds us, but supports the idea that the job isn’t just a job, and that it’s a pursuit of something incredible, something unachievable through other means.

Both Andy and Miranda both want the same things: to work until you succeed. Miranda suffers through two divorces, one before our very eyes, that comes at, presumably, the cost of her career. She devotes far too much time and attention to it, much to her husband’s chagrin. This event follows on the heels of Andy’s own breakup, a partner lost directly due to her devotion to the job. Ironically, Andy continues this work despite succeeding. She’s bested her rival assistant, Emily. She’s earned the respect of her coworkers in Nigel and Emily’s own friends, and even Miranda through whatever means Miranda can show. In the beginning of the film, she and her friends drink to simply paying the rent. In the last scene of them all together at the table, Andy storms off after leaving each of them with thousands of dollars worth of rare, unique gifts. 

It’s a testament to how we live our lives today, perhaps even as I lead mine. What have I sacrificed for success? Who have I lost along the way? Do my friends look to me and think I am successful, while I look to others and think of them as successful? Would I know if I become cutthroat and opportunist, the way Andy was unaware she was?

An Arc Completed?

While I sing praises of the characters and how their choices and behaviors are grounded in narrative excellence and also realism, the fantasy of the film lays in its ending.

Andy chooses to leave the job, and Miranda, when she realizes she’s become Miranda without even knowing it. She gifts her clothing from Paris to Emily, in essence telling us that Emily’s arc is completed when she’s validated and rewarded with material goods. Emily has not changed.

Miranda gives Andy the cold shoulder in public, and when she thinks no one is looking, hides a smile, and then snaps at her driver in the same breath. Miranda has not, presumably, changed. 

Andy applies for a job and presumably gets it because of her work in college, and nearly loses it thanks to a dramatic, emotional rollercoaster of a recommendation from Miranda. Has Andy changed much? She’s regressed from being a fashionista, but has she truly demonstrated that she’s learned what success is? Does she demonstrate giving an appropriate amount of time to her boyfriend and love interest? Does she make amends with her friends and family? No. Andy has not changed.

The film delivers a fantastic story, and the journey is truly a masterstroke in storytelling. However, I think somewhere in the pomp and excitement of the climax, we forget that the film does not end in a place much different than where it began.

However, The Devil Wears Prada is a fantastic film, and deserves its place in the pantheon of classic story driven films from the 2000’s. 7/10. Why is the pretty boy love interest such an aggressively Australian man?

You can stream The Devil Wears Prada on Starz, or rent it from AppleTV.

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