As a rule, I try not to watch movies that have the word “devil” in the title. Usually they are horror movies, and those I specifically avoid. Otherwise, they are connected to some form of sin, which should not come as a surprise to anyone. The enemy is not in the sanctification business. And then there is The Devil Wears Prada (2006). If there is something about which I care and know little about, it is fashion. In my fumbling way, if I were to describe my style, it would be Dr. John Watson meets twenty-first century athlete. Make of that what you will. As today’s film deals entirely with this subject, I did not lose any sleep without viewing it. The only reason I clapped eyes on it is because it had been officially suggested to me on social media. You know what, I am not mad about it.
My heart pumped a little warmer as The Devil Wears Prada began because the main character, Andrea “Andy” Sachs (Anne Hathaway) is a graduate of Northwestern University. I always love a Chicago connection. She and her boyfriend, Nate Cooper (Adrian Grenier), have moved to New York City. He is working as a chef while she is pursuing her ambition to become a journalist. As the old saying goes, you have to start somewhere, and her start is with a fashion magazine called Runway. When its editor-in-chief, Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), is in need of a new assistant, the human resources department sends up Andy. It quickly becomes apparent, particularly by how she dresses, that she does not fit in. This is reinforced by Miranda’s first assistant, Emily Charlton (Emily Blunt). She has zero qualms about telling Andy that between the newcomer’s librarian-esque attire and general frumpiness (which is the most absurd running theme in the film), Andy does not belong. Actually, Andy feels this way as well, and is honest in her interview with Miranda about her lack of knowledge of the fashion industry. Yet, a year with Miranda can open doors to her desired career path. What Andy does possess is a good résumé and the desire to work hard to succeed. As such, Miranda takes her on, though insists on calling her Emily for the first few months of her employment. Miranda is the person referred to in the title, and her insane demands are the reason for it. Being Miranda’s assistant means that Andy is always on call, which puts her at a disadvantage with Nate and the rest of her family and friends. Through it all, she claims that it will only be for a year. It is the same at work as daily Miranda arrives at the office and unceremoniously dumps her coat and purse on Andy’s desk. The treatment extends to openly mocking Andy in front of a room full of people for Andy not knowing the difference between two belts. In desperation, she turns to Runway’s art director, Nigel Kipling (Stanley Tucci). With his help, she transforms herself from possible literature professor to chic corporate employee. All the while, she claims to Nate that she is still the same girl with whom he fell in love with in college. At the same time, her desire to impress Miranda becomes all-consuming. She also believes that it could potentially be paying off with her future when she meets a well-known writer she admires named Christian Thompson (Simon Baker). He says that he can introduce her to people in more serious publications, though it is pretty clear that he is after more than business connections with Emily. Still, this new relationship pays off for Andy when, out of spite for her accidentally witnessing a fight between Miranda and her husband, Miranda makes Andy get the next volume of Harry Potter before it is published. This is where knowing Christian comes in handy. What it means back at the magazine is that Andy is now outperforming Emily. As such, it leads to Andy being asked to go to the Paris fashion week, a moment that Emily has been dreaming of for some time. Andy is aware of this and feels bad, but also believes that it is being forced upon her by Miranda, as her boss does with all things. It also helps that Emily is hit by a car while on an errand for Miranda. Though Andy should be happy about this opportunity, it further alienates her from Nate. In fact, days before she is scheduled to leave, they decide to take a break from their relationship. Nonetheless, she goes to Paris and is thrilled to be in the City of Lights. There, too, is Christian, who has still not given up on his pursuit of her. They manage to have an evening together, which turns into an adult sleep over (I hope you understand what I mean here). The next morning, Christian reveals Miranda is to be replaced. Because they had a personal moment the night before when Miranda opens up about getting another divorce, Andy takes it upon herself to warn her boss. As it turns out, Miranda had already known of the affair and had outmaneuvered the attempt to oust her. Nonetheless, Miranda is as touched as a person like her can be, and tells Andy how much the young woman reminds her of herself. This is when Andy realizes that she wants nothing to do with this life anymore, and walks away. She returns to New York and attempts to apologize to Nate. He seems receptive, though I am not sure where they land in the end. Oh well. Andy has her own plans. She has an interview with a newspaper. When the subject of her time at Runway comes up, the interviewer indicates that Miranda had given Andy a sparkling recommendation. After the meeting, there is a chance encounter with the two where they exchange looks, though Miranda smiles alone in a car.
Because I am a Catholic film critic, I notice things in a film like The Devil Wears Prada like the fact that the two of the antagonists having faith related names. Miranda Priestly. Christian Thompson. Sometimes such things are coincidences, though to believe that is what it is every time is naïveté. Then again, there are those who say the same thing about people who believe in God. I will, of course, stick to Faith, while also trying not to make a mountain out of a mole hill with these names. What I will address in greater detail is Andy’s transformation. It all centers on the world of fashion, and Nigel makes a religious metaphor for it when he calls it “iconography to express individuality.” Put differently, what you wear says something about who you are. This is true, but only in the most limited, and that it to say temporal, sense. Andy starts off as a self-possessed person, which is closer to the ideal God wants for us, and loses herself in the temptations of, well, the devil. God loves you in a way that no article of clothing could ever hope to accurately express. We Catholics try. I, for one, wear a Scapular, a large wooden Cross with Immaculate and Our Lady of Lourdes Medals, and saint and St. Benedict bracelets. Between these items and the majority of my t-shirts relating to Catholicism, I am trying to signal to the world to whom I belong. Yet, as Andy eventually learns, no earthly label can speak to who we truly are. The movie stops short of reality, which is that our identities begin and end in Christ. But at least there is a start here.
I enjoy it when a film pleasantly surprises me as is what happens with The Devil Wears Prada. It is one of the exceptions to the rule of titles with that hateful word in it being good. Even so, I will likely revert to my penchant for avoiding those movies. In the meantime, you can pretty safely enjoy this one.