In my view, an adaptation is taking something that was previously published, and making it your own, no matter how different it turns out to be from its original source. If there is one movie that fits that description, then it is David Frankel’s The Devil Wears Prada. The Movie is based on an abysmal novel that is a chore to sit through due to its author’s awful prose. Had the screenwriter, Aline Brosh McKenna, decided to make a carbon-copy of the novel, the movie would have been a miserable failure, but thankfully it was not. Although it had its flaws, the script had great dialogue and totally believable situations. It also allowed the actors and the director to work their magic on the story.
Aside from the screenplay, there is one more thing that allowed the movie to be great. This thing is the cast and its performance. Prior to the release of the movie, I had only heard the basic premise of the book and wondered what led to the greatest actress alive do this. Did she need money? Probably not, but that led me to carefully anticipate the release of the movie. Then the reviews started to come it. It opened the same weekend as Superman Returns, and it got better reviews than that, and I was stunned. Then the Oscar buzz for Streep started to come in, so I decided to read the book. As I have already stated, I hated the book. But by that time nothing could stop me from seeing the great Meryl Streep giving another Oscar-worthy performance, and when I saw it I was completely surprised.
The movie surely takes place in the world of fashion, but it is not about fashion. It is a movie about surviving in the workplace, about trying to get ahead in your career, and the consequences that might have on your personal life. Thanks to Anne Hathaway’s performance as Andy Sachs, those themes seemed realistic. She is not the same clutz that we saw in The Princess Diaries, she is a mature woman trying to make her mark on the world. Then there’s Stanley Tucci’s Nigel, the voice of reason who has sacrificed his social life to have his dream job. There’s also Emily Blunt, who gives the second best performance in the movie as Emily, the seemingly cold hearted assistant. Then there’s Streep’s Miranda Priestly.
In my opinion, her performance here is her best of the decade. From the get-go, her performance made me afraid of ever working with somebody like Miranda Priestly. The way she utters lines like “That’s All” and “Why is no one ready?” (this happens during the run through) made a chill run down my spine. She said these lines in a calm matter, but still I felt like I was being yelled at. The performance almost made the entire movie for me. Her Oscar nomination was truly deserved, and she should have won too.
This movie is a clear example of the power of a great screenplay and the performances. That, combined with Patricia Field’s amazing, Oscar-nominated, costumes, serviceable cinematography that made New York City come to life, and capable direction from David Frankle, makes The Devil Wears Prada one of the most devilish delights of the decade.