Everyone knows that Meryl Streep is the high priestess of drama, but she never gets enough credit for her comedy skills. That should change with The Devil Wears Prada, a sinfully funny, deliciously glossy take on the 2003 best seller by Lauren Weisberger, who denies writing it as a poison-pen letter to her former boss, Vogue editor Anna Wintour. The names have been changed, of course, to ward off lawsuits. Stepping up to the plate as imperious fashion editor Miranda Priestly, Streep knocks every laugh out of the park. More remarkably, she humanizes a character who was little more than a bitch in Manolos on the page.
Streep teams up hilariously with Anne Hathaway as Andy Sachs, the “smart fat girl” (she’s a mere size 6) who applies for the job as Miranda’s junior assistant at Runway magazine. Andy, a journalism major at Northwestern, had her eye on The New Yorker, but is told that if she can run the gantlet of Miranda for a year, there is no publishing Everest she can’t climb. Before you can say “makeover,”Andy is transformed from a gawky giraffe into a swan who can trade up in lovers — from sweet chef (Adrian Grenier) to literary stud (Simon Baker) — and from cotton blends to chicest of Valentino, Chanel, Donna Karan, Bill Blass, Galliano and Prada. Guys who know squat about labels can take pleasure in the uberbabes wearing the threads.
Director David Frankel makes expert use of the light touch he brought to HBO’s Entourage and Sex and the City. And screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna leeches out the book’s malice in favor of wicked sass. Does the movie bite the fashion hand that feeds it? You bet. But it also pays due respect to the artful details turning the wheels of an industry that only seems frivolous. There’s no doubt Andy learns much from watching Miranda at work, even with all the insults and fool’s errands. The script tries to paint Miranda into a corner — the lonely careerist who can’t keep a husband or find personal happiness — but Streep won’t wallow in the cliches of victimhood. In a party of a movie, her performance is a comic and dramatic tour de force. omic and dramatic tour de force.