Wednesday, 12 September 2007

The Devil Wears An Outfit By Patricia Field

Since we’re big fans of Ugly Betty, with its sharp, funny writing, faux-Almodovar sets, and awesome your-brother’s-not-dead-in-fact-he's-Rebecca-Romijn! plot twists, we decided to belatedly watch The Devil Wears Prada. Last September no reviewer could resist pointing out how similar the two were, as both were about frumpy girls who work at fashion magazines (actually, this is where the similarities ended, as otherwise their plots could not be more different, but when you’re an entertainment journalist you’ve got to devour any crumb of a trend that you get). We heard bad-to-middling things about Prada, but we’re both huge fans of Meryl Streep, especially when she does comedy, so we decided to rent it.

It sucked. It sucked so much that I feel sorry for Ugly Betty that it happened to start a few months after the movie came out, because surely anyone who saw Devil and didn’t like it (i.e., everyone who saw it) would read those articles and think, “It’s like Devil Wears Prada? I would rather eat one of Anne Hathaway’s feathered bowler hats than watch a show that has anything in common with that movie.” Happily, though, Betty seems to be doing quite well for itself in the ratings, even here in the UK, which is as it should be.

The movie, however, was a glossy, flat, affectless cliché-well, a comedy that didn’t raise so much as a smile from us (unless you count laughter at Anne Hathaway’s increasingly ridiculous outfits) and was so full of Guptic characters that it was hard to care what happened to any of them, aside from hoping that somehow the wolves from the New York of The Day After Tomorrow would escape from their movie and come ravage the brightly-colored fashion mavens instead of blameless and long-lashed Jake Gyllenhaal.

The movie began with “frumpy” Anne Hathaway taking a job at the fashion magazine Runway, because apparently there are no journalism jobs anywhere in all of New York City. That’s believable, right? That it’s easier to get a job at a premier fashion magazine than a newspaper? Of course it is. No – stop thinking! I should mention that “frumpy” Anne Hathaway, aside from wearing outdated girls-boarding-school clothes, doesn’t actually look that bad. I am no fan of hers, with her stretchy duck lips and her huge cow eyes and her weird, gangly body, but mussing someone’s hair a bit doesn’t actually make them look ugly. It just makes them look human, and possibly combless.

Anyway, Andy (for that is Hathaway’s name in the movie) begins working for Miranda (Meryl, her hair the color of a stainless steel fridge and her attitude just as icy) as her second assistant – Emily Blunt plays the senior assistant. Blunt is good in the role; she manages to get the few laughs the movie has to offer, though unfortunately she is saddled with the worst eye makeup this side of Tammy Faye Baker.

And the days go by, Miranda duly chucking her coat and bag at Andy every morning and giving her increasingly insane tasks to do. Just as a side note, one of Salon’s writers did a piece about how Miranda is a great character because she’s a strong female boss – in her zeal to praise this leap forward for feminism, she managed to make it sound like she thinks Miranda’s attitude is something we should all strive for, to be so obsessed with our work that we treat other people as if they were faulty computers, to be abused whenever we feel like it. Betty Friedan? You’re welcome.

One day Stanley Tucci (who is, as AdmiralNeck pointed out, is dressed here as a gay Nazi scientist) takes pity on “frumpy” Andy and leads her to Runway’s closet, the place where they store all the clothes they use in photo shoots. It first appears to us accompanied by a soundtrack of angelic voices and a glissando. Apparently it’s every little girl’s dream, even Andy’s, even though she has professed time and again that she does not care about fashion. Yet her true feelings have emerged! She, like every woman, is helpless in the face of such beauty.

Is that the garden trellis Matter-Eater Lad was chomping earlier? No, it’s a fashionable poncho. Not as fashionable as some others, obviously.

So Andy has her incredible makeover, which, other than the clothes, seems to consist of someone brushing her hair and actually making her bangs worse – at the beginning of the movie they are mostly swept to the side and admirably cover her fivehead while still being unobtrusive. After the makeover, they look like someone gathered all the hair on her head, swept it forward, cut off half of it, and piled the rest on top.

The first post-makeover outfit is shown in slo-mo -- it is apparently so fashionable that it slows down time itself. And it is, may I say, hideous. A bejewelled cruise-captain’s jacket paired with skintight leggings and boots that are clearly too wide for Hathaway’s legs. All aboard on the SS Duck Lips -- we're off to Crazytown. But we could expect no less from the woman who brought us these memorable fashion moments:

Patricia Field, your continued employment is all anyone ever needs to justify why fashion is so incredibly stupid and arbitrary. Go back to the planet Zorleck, you freak.

I’ll skip over the rest of the plot, as I’m sure that even if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ve figured it out by now. But before I go, I must mention the…oddness of Simon Baker’s appearance in this movie. If you don’t know him, he’s an Australian dude who’s been kicking around in Hollywood for a few years – he was the lead in that short-lived tv show The Guardian and, more recently, a movie called Something New. He’s usually pretty good-looking, in a tanned way.

In this movie, he looks…well, the best description is insane clown. His eyebrows have taken on a life of their own and are seen here colonizing his face in preparation for their imminent takeover. As for what’s going on with his hair…I can only think it’s waging its own war.

If that's not enough to put you off sex forever, I give you this:


sjwoo said...

So if Simon Baker and Jack Nicholson star in a movie together, would they be referred to as the Insane Clown Posse?

The movie was very much by-the-numbers, no doubt, but I did like Meryl's speech about the color blue. And I liked the gay Nazi scientist's reaction when Meryl steals his job. All very predictable, of course, but the performances save the lukewarm lines over and over again.

I always thought Anne Hathaway as the heir apparent to Julia Roberts -- big facial features, lame roles, subpar acting ability. So perhaps ten years down the line, she'll star in her own dress-like-a-whore lawyer film and win the big one.

On a completely unrelated note, has AMC's Mad Men made its way to the UK? It's just a lovely show, full of '50s/'60s angst and a surprising amount of humor.

Canyon said...

Mad Men isn't being shown here yet -- I think it will be early next year; can't remember what the preview said -- but we've been downloading it. We've only watched three or four episodes so far, though, because, while it has the veneer of quality, hardly anything has happened yet, aside from characters with mysteriously shaky hands (could this be from the jugs of alcohol they consume daily?) and lots of satisfied smirking. Does stuff start to happen as it goes along?

sjwoo said...

At the end of "The Marriage of Figaro," instead of picking up the birthday cake for his daughter, Don simply decides to not do it, instead choosing to park in front of the railroad tracks to drink some more. For me, that qualifies as a significant progress of both plot and character, but since this is the third episode and you've seen it, I'd say stay away from the rest. Because there's a whole lot more of that sort of action (or non-action, as it may be construed) coming your way.

I find the show fascinating in many respects, especially in the way women were treated back then. It might be a bit heavy-handed in some respects, but the show gets so much right that I don't mind. The lead character is a complicated figure -- as one character says, "Draper? Please -- no one's lifted that rock."

I also find the whole ad bit enticing. I had no idea that Volkswagen's advertising has always been tongue-in-cheek. I looked it up, and apparently the firm they'd hired, Doyle, Dane and Bernbach, pioneered the creativity we see in advertising today.

sjwoo said...

One other thing -- don't forget that I'm a sucker for that time period. It's the tail end of the Age of Anxiety, Richard Yates territory. Which reminds me -- some loon on the IMDB message boards claimed to have a script of Revolutionary Road. I emailed him, and he actually emailed me back with the actual screenplay. It's from 2004, so it's an early draft, but it's basically all there. I hope they'll tweak the ending, because it's a bit much as it stands, but imagining DiCaprio and Winslet and Kathy Bates saying those lines just makes me very, very happy. It's written by Justin Haythe, the guy who wrote The Clearing, which was a downer but quite good, I thought. BBC Films is doing it.

Canyon said...

I do still want to watch the rest of Mad Men; we both tend to be stubborn like that with shows and have not given up on many (John From Cincinnati is the only one I can think of that's defeated us). I just wish Draper would do something about his turtle-esque neck.

I didn't know they were doing Revolutionary Road (not to be confused with Reservation Road, the other suburban misery movie). I'd be interested in seeing that. For once the IMDB crazies come through!

sjwoo said...

John fron Cinci did us in after one episode. The idea of listening to De Mornay's overacting for one more minute made us sort of ill.

We saw the first episode of Tell Me That You Love Me. Not bad, not great. I suppose we'll keep watching. I miss House.

Dawn said...

I agree with Mr. Woo. But more so. I loved TDWP. Loved it! Loved it! Loved it! Did I say I loved it? I loved it! I watched it at least 3 times on the plane flying back and forth over the Atlantic. (I couldn't budge from the seat -- I loved it so much, so I just kept flying back and forth.)

Yes, it's vapid. Yes, it's a chic flick! Yes! Yes! Yes! Did I say I... oh, you get the point. It's like a Glamour mag wrapped up in a Vogue wrapped up in a ... well, something non-caloric. It was a little like a getting a new lipstick: it was new, soft, maybe a bit gooey, but with a hard enough edge that when you slathered it on, it made you feel just like you were in publishing!

Canyon said...

Are you drunk right now?

Dawn said...

Not yet, but I have a glass of Stoli at the ready.

Dawn said...

And as I sip my Stoli, I'm remembering Mad Men last night (epi 9-Shoot). It was really amazing...what a great complicated, understated story line--the conflicts are so real. It's my favorite show right now. For me, a lot of the fun is the steady depiction of the time period-- smoking/drinking in the office, the barbarian treatment and sexual harrassment of women, (which lets you appreciate how far we've evolved in those 40+ years) and the set design, like those references including the bottle of saccharin in the foreground of the office kitchen shot. I may be prejudiced b/c I also lived in Ossining as a little girl, went to first and second grade there, but this feels like an homage to "Far From Heaven" (2002) one of my favorite films.

Don is such an interesting character, stuck in that period as well as the others are...maybe that's the turtle's head you see poking out of the shell.

Jaredan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jaredan said...

I watched this film with my wife and it ranks up there with my proposal on the London Eye as proof I will put myself through anything for her.
So I didn't ruin her enjoyment of it, I vowed I wouldn't start swearing at the screen so at one point I pondered smothering myself, but that would have been too obvious.
Though biting the pillow would have been oddly appropriate.