Sunday, July 02, 2006

the devil is in the details

AK and I were in search of air conditioning.

“I sort of want to see The Devil Wears Prada,” she admitted, “but you said you thought it looked bad.”

“Oh, yeah, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see it,” I said. Although most people have guilty pleasures, or ironic pleasures, sometimes I want to see movies because they A) are shiny, and B) will make me mad. I like the sensory pleasure of fashion montages followed by the righteous indignation that follows inevitable clichéd storylines or stereotypical characters.

But on this front, Devil was thoroughly disappointing. I genuinely liked it (unlike my friend
Heather, with whom I will now have to engage in fisticuffs…just kiddin’; I liked it, but not quite enough to fight for its honor).

Whether or not you read the book (I didn’t), you probably know the plot: Girl applies for journalism jobs, girl get stuck as assistant to subtly whip-cracking fashion mag editor, girl must decide if she wants to sell out everyone she knows so that she can be a whip-cracking celebrity editor herself when she grows up.

NPR review that I heard complained that Anne Hathaway’s character wasn’t likeable because she pretty much does sell out everyone she knows along the way. But I liked that her fall was genuine and significant. The devil doesn’t want to hang out with Hilary Duff.

Mostly, however, I liked the movie because it made the right choices—details that saved it from being an over-the-top send-up of an easy target. Instead, it was unselfconsciously smart and weirdly realistic.

As we crossed the parking lot of the local Magic Johnson Theatre (because while the devil may wear Prada, this mortal is on a budget), I initially lamented that Hathaway’s transformation from mousy journalist to fashionista was too subtle. But AK argued that that was kind of the point—she dresses like a normal 20-something New Yorker, meaning she has slightly messy hair and a cute, preppy coat. But the fashion world is obsessed with details, and so adding bangs and changing her sweater make all the difference. Similarly, the famous running joke is that Hathaway is fat because she’s a size six. When she diets her way down to a four, she’s no longer a pariah.

Meryl Streep, who plays the titular editrix in chief, is also refreshingly subtle. She murmurs instead of yells, expertly conveying how people in positions of power, or with certain personality types, get away with the shit they do: They strike so much fear into the hearts of their underlings that by the time they walk into a room, everything has been frantically prepped to perfection. One icy criticism assures that, next time, the underlings will work even more frantically and achieve even more perfect results.

Those scenes kind of stressed me out, actually. Most of the bosses I’ve had have been incredibly nice, but in life in general, it doesn’t take much to strike fear into my heart.

We left amused and cooled, and headed downtown for
KCRW’s free Kinky concert in California Plaza, one of those semi-spontaneous outings that turned out to be awesome. Kinky was groovy and danceable and smooth in a way that still had heart.

AK and I did some dancing of the still-diligently-watching-the-show variety, and toasted with our styrofoam Robeks smoothie cups as we watched the lovely crowd. Hipsters and families and hipster families, and an excited clique of 20-year-old girls who jumped up and down in unison on the balcony, waving their glow-bracelet-clad wrists. I couldn’t think of a better fashion accessory.


CC said...

Funny that Heather hated Prada but loved Prairie Home Companion. My roomie tried to watch a taping of Prairie Home last night, and I ran out of the house. Garrison K's smug midwestern accent drives me crazy. . .

Schrodinger's Kitten said...

AK - I agree with you 100% - it's the accent. I can't deal! Agh!!!!

I may have to see Prada after this review - you hit the perfect balance of respect and distain.

Cheryl said...

I don't normally think of "smug" and "Midwestern" in the same sentence, but, wow, that actually describes Garrison perfectly.

Sara, it's up to you to break the Prada tie.

Chelle said...

Hmmm. I read the book and thought there was no way I'd see the movie. Still might not until video. The movie sounds like it lived up to the book... Rare.

Cheryl said...

From what I heard about the book, it doesn't sound like it set the bar very high. But then again, I didn't read it, and I hang out with snobs. (Love ya, snobs!)

Jessica Harwood said...

I was suprised that I liked this movie too.

I didn't realize there was a Midwestern accent. Growing up in the Midwest, it seemed like everyone was speaking "Midwestern" on the national news and so forth.

Cheryl said...

I think everyone thinks of their own accent as the "non-accent." I think of myself as sounding generic-American, but I've been told, "You totally sound like you're from, like, the Valley."