27 July 2006

I See Movies Sometimes: The Devil Wears Prada

Hathaway, Streep, and the always-hot Tucci (even when playing an effete fashionista).
Plus check out that FAB plaid suit.

Why add my voice to so many others regarding this trifling film? Two words: Meryl and Streep. She makes a meal out of the Anna Wintour-inspired Miranda Priestly and perhaps invents a way of chewing scenery through understatement. Honest. Directors have finally figured out that she's a terrific comedic actor, and "Devil" gives her plenty of time to show off by not showing off. The scene where she quietly dresses Anne Hathaway down by detailing the fashion history behind the color of Hathaway's shitty bargain basement sweater is worth the price of admission all by itself. And now on to destroy the rest of the film.

The above-mentioned scene is the keystone to why the film ultimately doesn't work because it economically reveals what the film could have been but is not: well-written and featuring a fully-realized protagonist. Anne Hathaway fails utterly to project the necessary intelligence required for this character. That's the acting failure. The above scene also shows the writing failure (which is expected, mind you, since this is a Hollywood movie), because if the Hathaway character were truly as smart as the script tells us ad nauseum, then Streep's explication of the genealogy of the color of Hathaway's sweater would make sense to her and this scene would be her "Ah-ha" moment. It is not. Rather it is the "Ah-ha" moment for the audience as we watch the film dispose of itself so neatly, because if the quality of the writing in this scene, or I should say in Streep's monologue, were indicative of rather than in exception to the rest of the movie, we might have had something really cool. Instead, we get yet another workmanlike retread of a Cinderella story with a half-hearted feminist twist. The subplot involving Hathaway's friends and boyfriend is so pathetic and perfunctory that it's this side of unbelievable, and certainly on the other side of involving in any way. The film seems constantly unsure of what to do next--except when Streep or Stanley Tucci (as Streep's right-hand man cum tart fairy godmother to Hathaway) are on screen--or even of who the Hathaway character is. It does not have a consistent opinion of the value of fashion, the value of Hathaway's experience under Streep, or even the value of Hathaway's independence. This is the kind of shitty "writing" that occurs these days--an enterprise done by committee, product placement, moronic producers, and test audiences. In other words it's less writing than a projection of a hive mind.

Anyway, it's nice to see Streep doing her thing, even if it is often over a cardboard cup emblazoned with a STARBUCKS logo, when such a character would never drink that coffee and certainly would not drink it out of a cardboard cup. And that image represents the coalescence--perhaps the apotheosis, perhaps an obsolescence--of how narrative, character, and art will always experience the wobble introduced by the powerful gravitational field of economics. Quel reprise, Hollywood.


bstewart23 said...

Allow me to detail why I am going to see this film. No, it is not because Meryl Streep, even if she tried, cannot fail (though plenty of stuff she's been in has done so, effortlessly). It is because I am hopelessly enthralled by Stanley Tucci, who represents not just Sexiest Man Alive For, Like, EVER, but who also is in possession of some remarkable skill and range.

Shall I explain further?

I still remember the very first time I saw Stanley Tucci. In the 80s, in either a Coke or a Levis ad. In it, he's wearing a white wifebeater, 501s (and drinking a Coke?), walking through the East Village (or an advertising representation of same). In my entire life I will never see a more perfect encapsulation of my masculine ideal: handsome, built, furry, balding, rogueish grin, utterly self-aware but with no overconfident swagger.

I will never lose that, EVER. I even saw The Fucking Core for Stanley Tucci (and Aaron Eckhart, it must be admitted). I am one of the very few people on this planet who'll watch The Imposters at least once a month.

So, even with Meryl involved I was utterly uninterested in seeing Devil Wears Prada. Until I saw the preview, with Tucci doing his "who's THAT?" gesture behind the clipboard.


Luciferus said...

Tucci is amazing, and I too have seen films ONLY because he was in them, BUT. He's not as well featured in "Devil" as I would have preferred, and his role is fun, but under-written. Another reason why "Devil" fails: not enough screen time for Stanley Tucci, and not a meaty enough role for such a great and hot actor.

David said...

Excellent review SS. You explain exactly why the film was so watchable/enjoyable and frustrating/annoying at the same time. I'd be curious to hear your theory on why so many seemingly intelligent people (millions) happily accept movie mediocrity. Have we all just "settled?"