Synopsis (the book and movie):
Young graduate, Andy Sachs, is looking for a job in New York, preferably in a newspaper or a magazine. She studied journalism, her love and passion, and she would like nothing better than joining the New Yorker team. However life has got a big surprise for Andy in store. Quite accidentally she is invited to a job interview for a position of a junior assistant of Miranda Priestley, a woman-legend, the she-dragon of American fashion journalism,the despotic queen ruling Runway, the ultimate American fashion magazine, like a separate kingdom. Of course Andy, not being exactly a fashion fan, doesn’t know a thing about her and it is perhaps her biggest advantage – she is not afraid of the woman. Not yet.
Andy is hired for the lack of better candidates and also because she is young, good-looking, intelligent and, after a recent illness, just thin enough. Although many people working with Miranda ensure her that plenty of girls would murder to get her position, after the first week Andy is sure previous assistants must have been killed by the absurdly high expectations of her new boss. Still there is a stick in a form of a carrot, dangling before her – if she manages to survive one year then maybe, just maybe, Miranda, who knows everybody who is somebody in the New York press industry (and their dogs/cats/parrots/spouses and lovers – in that order) will pull the strings with her elegantly manicured hand and get Andy the position she dreams about. Any position. One short telephone call from that woman might make or break your career and your life. How to survive one year, though, while your boss makes you clear daily thousands hurdles just to prove you are good enough to work for her?
I’ve read The Devil Wears Prada some time ago and enjoyed it, all things considered. On the one hand it was just a lightweight chicklit novel about a modern girl trying to make a career in New York; on the other hand, though, the story was sufficiently complex and gritty, with a fine plot criticizing scathingly the Manhattan elite. As a bonus it didn’t feature any insta-love although Andy did get some romance. When I found out that the book was a speculated roman à clef of the author’s real life experience as a put-upon assistant to Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour I wasn’t surprised – the adventures of Andrea and the tasks set by her devilish boss, Miranda, sounded real enough to persuade me that they have been based on facts. However, for many years I refused to watch the movie even though Meryl Streep, an actress who, according to yours truly, can do no wrong on scene be it a comedy, a romance or a drama, and Anne Hathaway, physically as close to Andy as it is only possible, starred in it. It is one of the big, fixed truths of my life: books are always better than the movies based on them. Always. If there are exceptions, they are just meaningless aberrations, statistically insiginificant.
One evening I had nothing to do so I thought: why not? Let’s watch The Devil Wears Prada and prove myself wrong. The result? I was right again. 😉
I grand you: visually the comedy was perfect. New York! Paris! Fashion! Wonderful Clothes and Nifty Accessories! SHOES! More Clothes! SHOES AND BAGS! Thin Girls wearing Clothes! Finally Real Fashion Designers playing, SURPRISE, SURPRISE, themselves! C’est chic! C’est formidable! What not to like? The outfits and hairdos of Miranda and Andy were fantastic! The soundtrack was fantastic! The camera work was fantastic!
However as soon as I got used to the big visual fest of amazing clothes, shoes, bags and whatnots, I started to frown. Movie Andy’s life was far too smooth and easy. Movie Miranda’s challenges were far too tame (with an exception of a demand for a still unpublished Harry Potter book that her long-suffering assistant had to obtain for Miranda’s twin girls. Get it or get the sack – it was puuuuure eeeeeeeeeevil. Worth of Voldemort. Or Snape).
The closer to the final, though, the more the film departed from the book; mind you not in a good way. I could swallow the fact that the movie boyfriend of Andrea shacked up with her and was a cook (in the book Andrea lived with her BFF, Lily, and her boyfriend only visited them from time to time and he was a teacher, not a cook). I could swallow that the character of Lily, a great counterpoint to Andrea in the novel, in the movie was reduced to a mere accessory – a girl squealing over a new Marc Jacob bag or telling Andrea off because she was kissing another guy in public. I bet the actress playing Lily was featured only because she filled two important quota – she was female and black. I almost heard the director ticking the appropriate boxes happily: racial minorities representative – check. If they are female you score a bonus – check again.
What I missed the most was the strange love-hate, admire-detest dynamics between Andrea and her employer. It was almost imperceptible in the movie while it was one of the major
highlights of the book, at least for me. I was fascinated by their tug-of-war. The completely skewed world perception of Miranda and her sadistic demands after a while were able to influence young Andy, emphasizing and feeding up the worst features of that girl’s character; features which lie dormant (or not so dormant) in practically everybody’s subconsciousness, including perhaps even the saints. Also the background of Miranda Priestley, so diligently researched by Andy (a journalist-to-be after all) in the book and explaining some patterns of her boss’s behaviour, was completely glossed over in the movie. Pity.
Still the ending of the film was the worst – saccharine, unrealistic, too happy and too shallow to make me even smile. In short it ends with Andy and Miranda viewing one another with mutual respect and even a kind of remote sympathy. The book afforded Andrea no such connection as she SPOILER section, highlight to read or skip cursed Miranda to her face publicly in Paris, over a truly outlandish demand, and was consequently fired on the spot. Of course after such a termination of her contract Andy never got Miranda’s much-coveted support but, miraculously, she did find another job. It was clear that the great Miranda Priestley had as many admirers as enemies and the girl was lucky to stumble upon one of the Miranda-haters. It sounded as right as the movie sounded false.
Read the book or watch the movie, depending on how much time you have. The movie, shorter and visually very attractive, is fine for an uncomplicated, fun evening with chocolate and bubbles. The book is a bit more complex and quite long but so much more rewarding.