There's a surprisingly sharp little sting hidden in this sleek throwback to old-fashioned Hollywood melodramas about sweet young things thrown into the lairs of hard-edged harpies who value their careers above all things womanly. Combined with Meryl Streep's outstanding performance as elegant virago Miranda Priestly, editrix extraordinare, the acid-tipped sliver of truth tucked into the flutter and frippery gives the comedy a chill that lingers longer than the small, knowing snickers. Fresh out of Northwestern University and convinced her future lies in serious journalism, coltish but unpolished Andrea Sachs (Anne Hathaway) lucks into the job "a million girls would die for": second assistant to the imperious queen bee of "Runway" magazine. Miranda is the "ne plus ultra" of bad bosses, ruthlessly selfish, mercurial, imperious, insanely demanding and just plain cruel. "Runway" staffers live in terror of her excoriating rages and scatter at the click-click-click sound of lethal stilettos in the hall, as though laser-eyed Miranda were capable of looking right through their cutting-edge frocks to pass judgment on plebeian panties. Andrea is found lacking on every level, from her schlubby sweaters to her tacky nickname — Andy, if you can imagine — and woeful ignorance of the semiotics of cerulean (and she thinks she's so smart!). Oh, and she's fat — at "Runway," a lanky size 6 is a full-blown chubbette. Andy learns the biz, with a little help — a very little help, truth be told — from Miranda's right-hand flunky, Nigel (Stanley Tucci), and hollow-eyed first-assistant Emily (Emily Blunt), but as her wardrobe grows trendier, her soul withers, pickled in a stew of hunger, celebrity worship and label addiction. Briskly directed by Sex and the City veteran David Frankel, the movie is far better than the source, which was Lauren Weisberger's clunky, thinly fictionalized tale of her ordeal by Vogue editor Anna "Nuclear" Wintour. The trouble isn't that it's chick lit — Jane Austen wrote chick lit — but that it's a shallow compendium of brand names and whining. Streep is the answer to what ails it: Her magnificently nuanced Miranda is a monster of monumental proportions, across whose face ghostly glimpses of a fully realized person who made herself horrible flicker briefly. The sheer force of Streep's performance pulls the talented Hathaway up, and the bitter truth beneath the feathers, silk and sequins is simply that everyone pays for ambition, but dragon ladies pay double at the door.
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- Released: 2006
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: There's a surprisingly sharp little sting hidden in this sleek throwback to old-fashioned Hollywood melodramas about sweet young things thrown into the lairs of hard-edged harpies who value their careers above all things womanly. Combined with Meryl Streep… (more)