The humour is as spiky as a pair of Manolo Blahniks yet The Devil Wears Prada isn't just a satire on the fashion industry. Anne Hathaway provides a soft centre as wannabe journalist Andy struggling to reconcile her ambition with a deeper core of human decency. Except for a dull romance plot, helmer David Frankel brings believable warmth to Lauren Weisberger's scathing book. Still, the real joy is in a smoulderingly sinister turn by Meryl Streep as Andy's egomaniacal boss.
Magazine editor Miranda Priestly is so imposing, she doesn't need to shout. Her indictments of Andy's weight and dress sense are softly spoken, languid and bitterly funny. As one colleague points out to the new assistant, "pressed lips" denote "catastrophe". But Streep presents more than a simmering cauldron of evil. Besides the designer clobber, she wears a discreet veil of tragedy and draws sympathy even while turning her nose up at the less fabulous.
"HOLDS A MORBID FASCINATION"
Frankel wisely avoids any mushiness in portraying what is basically a sadomasochistic mentor-protégé relationship. Andy takes as much humiliation as Miranda can dish out, but within that perverse dynamic, mutual respect develops convincingly and quite movingly.
It's a shame that Frankel ties pretty bows around the story in the end and it could have had more bite. Still what he does reveal about the fashion biz holds a morbid fascination. Understated moments like the withering once-over Andy is subjected to during her interview with Miranda are classic. Hathaway is an endearing foil, but it's Streep strutting her best stuff that really ties it all together.